The hotel and tourism industry has long been a strong economic pillar of Hong Kong. Though it is changing fast, the demand for excellence continues. In order to maintain the city's image as a favoured destination, specialists who are able to think strategically and can cope with constant change are essential. This is the aim of Polytechnic University's doctor of hotel and tourism management programme, the first doctorate in this field. With a focus on the Asian hotel and tourism industry, the programme is designed to cater for senior industry executives, senior staff in governmental and non-governmental organisations and academics seeking a doctorate in hotel and tourism management. Kaye Chon, director of the school of hotel and tourism management at PolyU, said the programme was an opportunity for the school to be a leader in this field. 'There is a global need for the doctoral degree, the industry wants to advance the knowledge. This is an opportunity for us to be an innovator and it has proven to be successful,' Professor Chon said. This year marks the third intake of students. About 20 students are enrolled each year and the screening depends on a personal interview. Priority will be given to students with sound career experience and leadership attitudes. Mindful of students' work schedules, the programme offers flexible classes. It consists of nine subjects with a total of 27 credits and a 24-credit 40,000 to 70,000 words thesis. The programme involves a 30-hour intensive study week stretched across six days. Professor Chon said Asia was now at the centre of hospitality and that Asians have become increasingly active in international travel. He believes that the mainland will soon become the number one destination for worldwide travellers and as a window to the mainland, Hong Kong has a lot to offer by hosting this kind of programme. Soyon, a student on the programme with a master's degree in hotel administration from Cornell University said she enrolled because the programme specifically catered to Asian countries. 'I studied in the United States for my master's degree,' she said. 'But I wanted a doctoral programme from an Asian country, or other academic streams outside America, in order to strategically enhance my knowledge and insights.' She said that the programme provided an interactive learning environment, combining knowledge about the industry with insights from academic experts. The course, with its Asian paradigm in hospitality, best provided that opportunity, she felt. 'We went to the Banyan Tree last year, the participants included executives from three hotel companies such as the senior vice-president and the general manager. It was an amazing opportunity to listen to their presentations and discuss hot issues in the industry. It opened my eyes to the next generation in the hospitality industry.' Another student, Lin Shu-ying, who is a lecturer in the department of hospitality management at MingDao University in Taiwan, said the school of hotel and tourism management was recognised as one of the world's leading schools in its field, so she wanted to be a part of it. She said the programme provided a mixed-mode of study, which allowed part time and full time modes of study. 'I came to Hong Kong to study. I took two subjects per semester and spent around seven days for each visit. With the intensive mode class time schedule and good time management, I did not feel like I was struggling with the course while working at the same time.' The normal duration for full-time study is 21/2 years with a maximum study period of five years. The part-time programme can take from five to eight years.