Popular IHG leader Leanne Harwood is set to depart Australia in the coming weeks to take up a new opportunity to lead IHG Hotels and Resorts’ Luxury and Lifestyle portfolio in the Americas.
A highly respected and experienced leader, Harwood currently serves as SVP, Managing Director for IHG’s Japan, Australasia and Pacific (JAPAC) region, and has led record regional growth since assuming the position six years ago, in January 2018.
As the new Senior Vice President (SVP), Managing Director, Luxury and Lifestyle Americas (LLA), based in Atlanta, Harwood will be tasked with overseeing the daily operations of the LLA organisation, driving performance and operations of IHG’s six Luxury and Lifestyle brands and supporting growth in the region.
She will commence the position on March 1, 2024.
With nearly three decades of hospitality experience behind her, IHG Hotels and Resorts CEO – Americas, Jolyon Bulley, said Harwood is undoubtedly the right person for the job.
“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 and Lifestyle portfolio – already one of the largest in the world – in the Americas region,” Bulley said.
“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.”
Over the last six years, Harwood’s leadership has had a significant impact on the JAPAC region, overseeing the global launch for the Voco and Vignette Collection brands, and expanding IHG’s reach to include nearly 160 open or in pipeline hotels. Key signings from during her tenure include the InterContinental Sorrento Mornington Peninsula, Kimpton Margot Sydney, RIHGA Royal Hotel Osaka and Regent Kyoto.
A respected voice in the industry, Harwood was elected the first president of peak industry body Accommodation Australia in 2021. She additionally serves as chair of IHG’s ANA Hotels Group Japan Board and was an early sponsor of IHG’s RISE program, which supports the development of female General Managers through training, mentorship and resource access.
“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,” said IHG Hotels and Resorts CEO EMEAA, Kenneth Macpherson.
“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.”
Harwood’s positive impact at IHG includes the introduction of a number of people-focused initiatives including on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), ESG and community engagement, 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 and Open and Champions of Change.
“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,” Macpherson added.
Harwood also resigns from her position as the inaugural Chair of Accommodation Australia (AA) and her roles on the AHA National Executive and National Board.
Accommodation Australia CEO Michael Johnson, who worked alongside Harwood during the lengthy amalgamation process, paid tribute to her skills.
“You could not have asked for a better, more professional leader during what was at times a complicated process,” Johnson 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.”
Australian Hotels Association President, David Canny, said AA’s loss was “a great win” for IHG in Atlanta.
“The accommodation sector is forever indebted for 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, learnt a lot, and just as importantly will miss Leanne’s friendship and quick wit.”
Harwood began her hospitality career at a hotel bar in New Zealand and ultimately became its Food and Beverage Director and later New Zealand’s first female hotel concierge. Prior to joining IHG, Harwood had worked across various sales, operations and commercial teams.
IHG will share an update on JAPAC succession plans within the upcoming weeks, while Accommodation Australia will also soon announce her successor.