Whether leading study-abroad trips to Asia or including undergraduates in his research projects, Bing Pan, associate professor of hospitality and tourism management, has been opening up students’ minds to the greater world since he came to the College in 2005. We caught up with Professor Pan, perhaps known more on campus for his infectious smile and lollipops (his simple motivation technique for ensuring dynamic classroom discussions) than his leading research on tourism.
Where did you grow up? I was born and grew up in the city of Jining, Shandong Province. Sitting on a plain in northeast China, it’s an industrial city with 8 million people. It is also the birthplace of Confucius and thus preserves many traditional Chinese values. It’s well known for the loyalty and honesty of its people (and it’s also a heavy liquor–drinking culture).
What is one thing every American should know about China? China has cities as rich as New York and Chicago – and places as poor as the poorest places in Africa. Yet, it is very dynamic and competitive. Many problems arose as well as much ambition and hope. The system works pretty well, and people are happier than ever before, though you can still hear many complaints about the gap between rich and poor and the prevalence of corruption.
Why did you choose to focus your academic interests on the hospitality and tourism industry? I never traveled outside of my home city until I went to college. As a result, I decided to study something fun and interesting. And it has never disappointed me since.
Why is it important for your students to travel to Asia? There is more than one way to see and think about things. Many times people are different, instead of good or bad. We need to learn to understand the context first, and judge second. I hope students can learn about the dynamics and diversity of lives and move beyond seeing things through an American lens.
What is the most critical skill for a hospitality and tourism management major to find success in the industry? I will say the most critical skill is hands-on experience. You have to start at the bottom and have the passion for this industry and the tenacity to stick with it. It is not as glamorous as it seems, but if you enjoy serving others and creating experiences and have a hard work ethic, it can pay off.
You did an interesting study looking at the online search habits of today’s generation. how do we help these “digital natives” become better searchers? When searching on Google, students trust the ranking of Google as much as their own judgment on the relevancy of the results based on the snippets displayed. In order to become better searchers, we need to always check the source of the information, check a few more websites and ask for help from experts, if possible.
How is technology transforming the hospitality and tourism industry? It has killed some industries as well as created others. Travel agencies are disappearing, while some intermediaries such as kayak.com and airbnb are burgeoning. Information technology is reconfiguring the hospitality and tourism industry.
What future trends will affect the tourist industry in Charleston? As Charleston is moving toward becoming a major metropolitan city, it is important to keep its small-town feel and charm. The mayor and the city governance have done well in the past 30 years. It will take careful planning and management to keep the balance in the coming years.
Where do you think the next tourism hotspot in the world will be? I think people will travel to all types of unique places with their own character. All types of niche markets will pop up instead of a few hotspots.
What do you like to eat? And what’s your favorite American food? My favorite food is tofu. It is healthy, and contains protein. I love all types of American food, from burgers to pizza. I’m not picky, and I enjoy all types of good food with fresh and healthy ingredients.
What kind of music do you enjoy? I like classic rock and sixties music – The Beatles, Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, The Eagles and Elvis. I also like Chinese rock. I was very rebellious in my middle school and high school years and listened to a lot of Western and Chinese rock music. My dream then was to join a rock band, until my academic life took over.
How do you listen to music now? I use music apps on my phone and download music from there. I primarily use a Chinese music app called Himalaya.
What do you do for fun? I play pickup soccer games every week. I also enjoy watching movies on Netflix, but only those movies that have an IMDB rating of 7.5 or above and have won at least 10 film awards. For non-English movies, the criteria is five film awards.
What are your favorite books? In English literature, it is The Catcher in the Rye. It resonates with many people during a certain period of their lives. Nobody can capture the psyche of a teenager as well as Salinger. I think I read it in Chinese in my high school years when I was 16 or 17. I re-read it in English several years later when I was in graduate school in the U.S. In Chinese literature, it is Dream of the Red Chamber – a pinnacle of Chinese fiction.
What’s your favorite tourist spot in Charleston? My favorite might be Magnolia Plantation. It has a petting zoo, and I can bring my kids and they can spend a whole day there. I love the tranquility of many tourist sites in Charleston.