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Tributes to Leanne Harwood as she prepares to depart Australia

Accommodation Australia CEO, Michael Johnson said: “Leanne has steered the Association through unchartered waters and her contribution will be felt by the accommodation sector for years to come.”

Leanne Harwood is set to depart Australia to lead IHG Hotels & Resorts’ Luxury & Lifestyle Portfolio in the Americas. It’s the end of an era and a huge loss for the Australian accommodation industry.

Tributes have rolled in for Leanne, the impressive and popular industry leader who has been appointed by IHG Hotels & Resorts (IHG) as its new Senior Vice President (SVP), Managing Director, Luxury & Lifestyle Americas (LLA).

Read the new summer print edition of AccomNews HERE

Leanne is a highly respected leadership voice across Australia’s accommodation industry. In 2021, she was elected the first female president of Accommodation Australia.

The association paid tribute to its inaugural Chair and “industry icon”, as she announced her resignation from the position, after being offered a new job opportunity within her own IHG organisation she will be relocating to the United States next month.

From March 1, 2024, Leanne will oversee the daily operations of the LLA organisation, drive performance and operations of IHG’s six Luxury & Lifestyle brands and support their growth in the region.

Accommodation Australia CEO, Michael Johnson who worked alongside Leanne during the amalgamation process of Accommodation Association and Tourism Accommodation Australia, which officially merged in July last year after lengthy negotiations paid tribute to her skills.

“You could not have asked for a better, more professional leader during what was at times a complicated process,” he said.

“Leanne has steered the Association through unchartered waters and her contribution will be felt by the accommodation sector for years to come.”

“Achievements during Leanne’s time include defeating the proposed Victorian bed tax, a $10m Federal Government jobs and careers grant, closer state and Federal ties and great head-way on the chronic problem of skilled workers.”

In her resignation letter, Ms. Harwood said that, while sad to move on, she left the Association in great shape.

“I am incredibly proud of all we have achieved together over the last two years, bringing together two distinctly different but purposely aligned organisations to create an incredibly strong single voice for our industry,” she said.

Leanne Harwood with Michael Johnson at AHICE 2023

“The position I’ve held as Chair has given me the opportunity to give back to an industry that I love and has in turn, returned more than I could have hoped.”

David Canny, President of AA’s parent organisation Australian Hotels Association, said AA’s loss was “a great win” for IHG in Atlanta.

“The accommodation sector is forever indebted to Leanne’s leadership, in ensuring Accommodation Australia was actually formed – an incredible achievement, seamless in its execution,” he said.

“I have loved working with Leanne, learned a lot, and just as importantly will miss Leanne’s friendship and quick wit.”

Ms Harwood will also resign from her roles on the AHA National Executive and National Board. A replacement will be announced in the coming weeks.

Also serving as chair of IHG’s ANA Hotels Group Japan Board, Leanne was an early sponsor of IHG’s RISE program, which supports the development of female general managers through training, mentorship and resource access.

Before joining IHG, Leanne assumed roles of increasing leadership and responsibility across various sales, operations and commercial teams. She began her hospitality journey at a hotel bar in New Zealand and ultimately became its Food & Beverage Director and later New Zealand’s first female hotel concierge.

Read more about Leanne Harwood HERE

A highly respected industry veteran with nearly three decades of hospitality experience, Leanne currently serves as SVP, Managing Director for IHG’s Japan, Australasia and Pacific (JAPAC) region. She has led record regional growth since assuming this position in January 2018, expanding its reach to include nearly 160 open or in pipeline hotels highlighted by the signings of the InterContinental Sorrento Mornington Peninsula, Kimpton Margot Sydney, RIHGA Royal Hotel Osaka and Regent Kyoto.

Beyond her well-deserved reputation for delivering on business performance, Leanne’s deep passion for making positive change in the world through a personal focus on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI), ESG and community engagement, included the RISE program for female GMs, the Shadow Board (LINK) initiative and JAPAC DE&I Council, as well as being executive sponsor of IHG’s partnership with OzHarvest, Pride in Diversity, Out & Open and Champions of Change.

On the new appointment Jolyon Bulley, CEO – Americas, IHG Hotels & Resorts, said: “Leanne has built a proven reputation among IHG and the broader industry as a trusted and strategic leader, and I have no doubt she is the right person to lead the next era of growth for our Luxury & Lifestyle portfolio – already one of the largest in the world – in the Americas region. From operations, commercial, and sales to food and beverage, her depth and breadth of experience is very well suited for this role. I look forward to working with Leanne and her leadership team to introduce our leading Luxury & Lifestyle brands to even more owners, guests and markets in the coming years.”

Kenneth Macpherson, CEO EMEAA, IHG Hotels & Resorts, added: “Leanne’s strong stewardship of the JAPAC business leaves us in a very strong position to continue to drive future growth in close partnership with our hotel owners. Since joining the JAPAC region in 2018, Leanne has elevated the value and reputation of our key markets and has overseen a transformative period of growth and performance. She is a highly respected leader and prominent advocate for our industry, including as President of Accommodation Australia. Leanne’s JAPAC legacy will also rightly be recognised for the way she has led. During her tenure, IHG has gained a strong reputation for doing the right thing by our stakeholders, particularly through our communities agenda and the great strides made in the diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) space.”

IHG will share an update on its succession plans within the JAPAC region in the upcoming weeks.

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