After his secondary school graduation, Chon set out to the United States from his native Korea with a curiosity about the world, to study hospitality and become a hotelier, engaged in a profession that would allow him to travel.
A master's degree, a PhD and many years later which he successfully spent in research and education in the US, Chon was headhunted and persuaded to move to Hong Kong.
"I saw huge opportunities lying ahead of us in Asia. It is now the centre of excellence in this business, so I reasoned with myself, why a university in Asia should not become a world leader in providing [hospitality] education. That was the grand vision I saw and that's why I came to Hong Kong 11 years ago," says the dean and chair professor of the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. "When I was talking about this and the planned move to Hong Kong, many people didn't understand what I was talking about. But now they can see that this is where all the action is taking place."
Although not many colleagues believed in Chon's great vision, by 2005 the School of Hotel and Tourism Management ranked fourth in the independent ranking of the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research. In 2009, it became the second in the world, just after Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration.
"I'm very proud of this, because we were recognised for our excellence. This is a source of pride and confidence for our students," he says.
Chon has received several awards over the years. This year, Chon received the United Nations World Tourism Organisation's Ulysses prize for his outstanding contribution to tourism knowledge. "I was really humbled. I believe I was the ninth recipient of the award and the first person from Asia," he says.
Chon's latest achievement is the new 28-floor building next to the Polytechnic University, housing the school on nine floors and a training hotel.<