Dr Lo Ka Shui, 58, has been named Asia Pacific Hotelier of the Year for his achievements as chairman of the Langham Hotel Group, which this week celebrates its 140th anniversary. He speaks of the parallels between his work as a hotelier and his previous career as a cardiologist. I always wanted to become a doctor, ever since I was seven years old. It was my vocation, and for many years I was completely immersed in the field of medicine. Finally, family duty called and I decided to come back and help out - and in the blink of an eye, 24 years have passed. The only time I went back into medicine was to be Hospital Authority chairman. I didn't have any great regrets about leaving my medical work behind. I was spending a lot of my time doing research before I left, and I always enjoy new challenges. I have been so busy since that I haven't had time to think about it. I still feel like a doctor. I do a lot of research before we do anything and when I took on the Hospital Authority chairmanship I got on pretty well with the staff because I was a doctor - it is my second nature. There is a very great difference in the Hong Kong hotel industry now compared to two years ago during the Sars episode. Then, we had 5 per cent occupancy, which is nothing. It is pure expenditure and no income. But as a medical person I knew it would pass. Instead of firing people as some other people did, I didn't think it was right. In tough times you have to stay together and get out of difficulty together. That is why we decided not to lay off people. All the same, I was quite surprised at how quickly the Sars crisis passed. Nobody knows what happened. The virus probably mutated into a milder form. Normally viruses do mutate. The major difference between now and then is not Sars, because I always knew that was something that we would recover from. The major difference is the Individual Travel Scheme and its effect on our economy. It fills up the hotels, mostly the two and three-star hotels. We also benefit because the whole capacity is shrunk. The supply of rooms is less because two and three-star hotels are packed with visitors from China. They go to shops, they eat and it really brought the whole economy back. It was the major catalyst for the recovery. We went from double-digit negative to double-digit positive growth in one year - that is quite amazing. What is happening will affect not only Hong Kong but the whole world. It is going to be the major phenomenon over the next 10 years. China is getting more affluent and people want to travel. Hong Kong accounts for two-thirds of all the outbound tourism of China. We are the major beneficiaries. Right now the individual visitor scheme allows people from various mainland provinces to come to Hong Kong and Macau only. There are many nations they can visit outside the mainland but not under this scheme - for the others they have to apply for visas. Coming to Hong Kong or Macau is very, very easy by comparison. An interesting statistic is that in 2002, 800 million people from southern China travelled inside China, but outside their home area. They have already got the travel bug. We will see this huge wave coming. Last year total outbound tourism was 17 million people. There is a huge, huge potential. People predict that more than 100 million will travel outside China by 2020, and the main beneficiary will be Hong Kong. We should have more simplified characters signage and Putonghua-speaking guides. The numbers are so huge that I really think Hong Kong will do quite well out of this new tourism boom from China. We just have to be prepared. Maybe it is a view I hold because of my scientific background - but there is no doubt in my mind that the world has to change.