He was given the title of Doctor honoris causa for his achievements in the field of tourism studies and for the cooperation in teaching and research between the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt and the Matej Bel University. Professor Pechlaner has held the Chair of Tourism at the KU since 2003 and also directs the Center for Entrepreneurship.
For 13 years now, the KU’s program portfolio has been featuring the highly popular Master’s degree program Tourism and Sustainable Regional Development – Management and Geography. The Chair of Tourism in the Slovak city of Banska Bystrica has been the most important international partner of the KU right from the start. The Master’s program, which awards its students a double degree, was developed cooperatively. As part of the Erasmus partnership, Professor Pechlaner has conducted research and published in collaboration with Matej Bel University in Slovakia, where he also annually gives lectures.
In his ceremonial address, Professor Pechlaner emphasized the necessity of a cooperation of the countries in Western Europe with those in the Eastern part of the European Union. “The Central European countries, which include Slovakia, play an essential part in strengthening the delicate connection between the West and the East,” Pechlaner said. Right from the start, the KU’s Master’s program was established in a joint effort with countries mainly in Central and Eastern Europe. Besides Slovakia, partnering universities can be found in the Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, Hungary and Georgia. In his speech, Professor Pechlaner also drew attention to the importance of shaping tourism studies into a discipline that takes into account a number of other disciplines and their individual perspectives. This exemplary interdisciplinary orientation of tourism science can be seen in the close collaboration of geography and economics at the KU.
The Matej Bel University is a public university that was founded in 1992. It comprises six faculties and offers lectures to approximately 8000 students. Its Chair of Tourism was established in the 1960s and was later outsourced to the city of Banska Bystrica. Located in the center of the country, the town was an important mining community in medieval Slovakia. The meteoric rise of the Fugger mining empire was founded largely on copper mined at Banska Bystrica, then known by its German name Neusohl. Nowadays, Augsburg, Bad Hindelang, Banca Bystrica and many historic mining communities in the Alps cooperate as part of the project European Fugger Road.
Harald Pechlaner is sought after as an expert in the field of tourism and maintains professional contacts in Germany and throughout the world. In addition to his research and teaching at the KU, he directs the Center for Advanced Studies at the European Academy Bolzano and is Scientific Director of the German governmental agency Kompetenzzentrum Tourismus in Berlin. Since 2014, Pechlaner has been President of the International Association of Scientific Experts in Tourism (AIEST). He has also authored and co-authored over 50 books and more than 200 scientific articles in books and journals. His research centers on the development, management and governance of destinations in tourism, stakeholder management and entrepreneurship and leadership. Until summer 2021, he was Chairman of the Academic Senate of the KU for six consecutive years.