Zheng "Phil" Xiang has been recognized as one of his field’s most cited researchers in the world.

A professor in the Howard Feiertag Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Xiang was one of six Virginia Tech researchers recently named to Clarivate’s Highly Cited Researchers 2023 list. A global company that maintains the Web of Science, Clarivate compiles an annual list of researchers who demonstrated significant influence through the publication of multiple highly cited papers during the last decade.

Citations — other scientists referencing a researcher’s findings in their own academic papers — are not only an acknowledgment of excellent work, but an indicator the work’s ripple effect is moving the researcher’s field forward.  This group of highly cited researchers represent about 1 in 1,000 of scientists and social scientists in the world, according to Clarivate.

Along with Xiang, Virginia Tech’s Wenjing Lou, Walid Saad, Linsey Marr, Kwok Tsui, and Lina Quan were among the 7,127 researchers from 68 countries and regions recognized this year.

About Xiang

  • Joined Virginia Tech in 2013
  • Is also the head of the Howard Feiertag Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, has served as president of the International Federation for IT and Travel and Tourism, and currently serves as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Information Technology and Tourism
  • Research interests include travel information search, social media marketing, and business analytics for the tourism and hospitality industries with a focus on the strategic implications of information technologies for the hospitality and tourism industry
  • Has been named a highly-cited researcher five times
  • Most cited work: "Role of Social Media in Online Travel Information Search"

In the researcher’s words

What does it mean to you to be among the most highly cited researchers?

I’m honored but also humbled. On the one hand, I’m glad my research has generated an impact on the knowledge community. On the other hand, citations are just one of the many ways we measure scholarship and research productivity, and I’m fully aware that there are many other researchers and scholars at our university who deserve recognition.

What do you most want people to know about your research?

It’s no secret that information technology is changing our society in many profound ways, including how consumers access information and use business services within the context of travel and tourism. My research documents some of the significant changes in the fabrics of travel and tourism industries due to the growth of the internet and emergence of social media.

What work on the horizon most excites you?

Obviously, artificial intelligence (AI) dominates our everyday conversation now and has numerous applications in hospitality and travel, ranging from travel assistance to customer service to augmented/virtual realities and business strategies. I am particularly interested in learning how we can use AI to understand market needs in order to develop innovative, sustainable business solutions.

What motivates you to keep moving forward?

Technology will remain one of the important drivers of our society. Technology also changes at a fast pace. As Tom Friedman said, we live in a world of “acceleration.” It is quite exciting and also challenging to understand the changing world through the lens of technology, which allows us to gain a glimpse of the future of hospitality and travel.

Who is your favorite fictional scientist?

Honestly, I don’t have a favorite fictional scientist. I think, compared to real scientists, fictional figures are kind of boring. My intellectual heroes are Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin, whose brilliance and creativity shined through the discoveries of the underlying patterns of the world.

What advice would you give to new research faculty?

No matter what kind of research you do, there’s always a place where you can shine.

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