The global hotel, hospitality and tourism industries not only continue to grow at a significant rate, they are also being reshaped by technology and new, innovative companies that are forcing market change. In this sort of environment, someone with the right mix of skills, dynamism and flexibility can forge a particularly exciting career; and the range of postgraduate programmes offering to help prepare them to seize these opportunities is expanding all the time. The School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) runs a number of such courses. Associate dean, professor Brian King, believes the focus of global tourism growth has shifted from established areas - Europe and North America - to Asia. "The amount of new infrastructure and hotels is vast, particularly in China," King says. "For the past few years, China has been the world's leading destination for both inbound and domestic tourism. It is also the world's fastest growing outbound market." While Hong Kong and Macau are already firmly established as the major destinations for mainland tourists, King sees several major infrastructure projects currently under construction, including the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and the express rail link to Guangzhou, which will strengthen Hong Kong's position even further. "Such developments will accelerate mobility across Guangdong, and into the rest of China, through the fast train network," he says. "With about 100 million people, and as China's most economically developed province, Guangdong is well placed as a generator of tourists." King believes new entrepreneurs are now challenging the established travel and hospitality industry operators, many of which originated as state-owned enterprises. He sees further growth driven by disruptive technologies that empower both customers and providers, which can be seen with companies such as Airbnb, Uber, BlaBlaCar and Kitchensurfing. "Alongside established tourism and hospitality brands such as Peninsula, Shangri-La and Mandarin Oriental, these disruptive companies are generating enticing new employment opportunities for tourism and hospitality graduates." In response, SHTM has added to its long-established MScs in International Hospitality Management and International Tourism and Convention Management, now in their 15th year. Since 2015 the school has also offered MScs in International Wine Management (IWM) and Global Hospitality Business (MGH). "The IWM programme was developed because Hong Kong is a duty-free centre for wine and hence well positioned as a global centre for the wine trade," King says. "It is also able to capitalise on the rapid growth of wine production within China, connecting with Hong Kong's strong international network and outlook." Given the way in which the career horizons of hospitality professionals have expanded, King believes the MGH programme can do wonders in boosting graduates' employment prospects. "The MGH programme was developed in recognition of the truly global nature of the hospitality and tourism business. Students are required to spend a semester each at the world's top hospitality schools: the Lausanne Hotel School in Switzerland, in Hong Kong, at SHTM, and at the University of Houston in the US," King says. New elements have been added to SHTM's programmes to reflect key market trends, technological developments and the growing importance of entrepreneurship and innovation. "For example, we introduced a subject in Luxury Management to give students an opportunity to understand this important trend, particularly in the China outbound market," King says. Another new course, Professional Practice, aims to give master's students an opportunity to gain hands-on experience during their studies. "It is particularly useful for students who have limited prior experience. This way we can admit top students who have six months experience at the time of entry and top this up with six months of further experience, which gives them a full year at the time of course completion." King views SHTM's faculty, curriculum and facilities as very attractive to potential students. "We have arguably the largest concentration of top tourism and hospitality academics in the world," he says, adding that the school's 70 academics come from 22 countries. "The MSc and Doctor of Hotel and Tourism Management degrees are accredited by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the leading international accreditation agency. Postgraduate students are exposed to the world's only up-scale dedicated teaching and research hotel." "Disruptive companies are generating enticing new employment opportunities." - BRIAN KING, ASSOCIATE DEAN, SHTM And the appeal of studying at SHTM for a postgraduate qualification extends beyond local and even regional students. "Students from all over the world are attracted to the strong reputation of the school," King notes. "In January 2017 we will welcome 42 students onto the MSc in Global Hospitality Business, all from outside of Hong Kong." SHTM is PolyU's most active recruiter of non-local students, and these students hail from across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia, he says. "The percentage of non-local students enrolled on our other MSc programmes and our Doctor of Hotel and Tourism Management programme ranges from 50 to 80 per cent." King cites the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research, which rated the school number two in the world for research into hospitality and tourism. Again, SHTM's doctoral students come from far and wide. "Our PhD student body is one of the most internationalised at PolyU, with students coming from 16 different countries." Graduates from programmes like SHTM's can look for ward to promising career prospects, King believes, as tourism and hospitality remains a bright spot in the economic outlook in the Asia-Pacific region. He predicts that arrivals across Asia will continue to grow by over 4 per cent each year. "Since tourism and hospitality is a labour-intensive industry, this means more job creation. Hong Kong is uniquely placed within Greater China to take advantage of growing consumer spending in the world's fastest growing market." King advises that the speed at which a graduate progresses will depend on the depth of their prior experience. "Some students commence their studies as assistant managers and then proceed to managerial level as a result of their studies. We do require all of our MSc students to have acquired at least a year of industry experience. However, we are also conscious of students who wish to progress in their studies and acquire industry experience at the same time, hence the 'management practice' option." SHTM's doctoral students are either senior industry executives or academics who are already teaching hospitality and/or tourism and who want a doctoral qualification. Their MSc will accelerate their progress, King says, adding that other SHTM alumni aim to pursue their own business ideas. One example is the Popway Hotel, close to PolyU campus, developed and run by SHTM MSc graduates.