IHG's LINK team

Early in 2022, the hotel industry was dusting itself off and starting to think about how it would approach a bright future ahead, with the vast learnings from the dark few years behind it.

In this brave new world, it was clear that diverse thinking was in order and, with its renowned culture of firsts behind it, the IHG Hotels & Resorts senior leadership team decided to get comfortable being uncomfortable and made the bold move to face the future in quite a different way.

With diversity, equality, and inclusion high on its agenda, the IHG team decided to challenge its own thinking, and looked to launch a platform whereby senior leadership could quickly and easily reach out to the field to gauge sentiment, seek insights, sense check major decisions and get a different perspective.

From this, IHG’s LINK program was born. Lauded as a two-way voice to a considered, connected business, LINK is a think tank, a sounding board, and a thought provoker.

It comprises seven senior hotel leaders who have been appointed via a rigorous nomination and selection process, with representatives across various disciplines including human resources, commercial, finance and operations.

Gareth Long Regional NSW Area General Manager is the Chair of LINK. The other team members include Nick Henderson, General Manager, Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport; Laura Papiccio, Human Resources Manager, Crowne Plaza Hobart; Stewart Manson, General Manager, Crowne Plaza Queenstown; Kelly Eichholtz, Area Director of Sales & Marketing, New Zealand; Patrick Davoren, Area Director of Finance, SB Hotels; and Matthew Hill, Resort Manager, InterContinental Hayman Island Resort.

LINK meets regularly to provide feedback on IHG’s business initiatives, instigate feedback on topical issues from hotels, and ensure IHG’s senior leaders are “in-tune” with what colleagues are experiencing on-the-ground.

“Having this fabulous group of hotel leaders ready and able to quickly and concisely provide different perspectives and share the feel of our wider colleague group is allowing us to make better informed decisions that take into account a wider variety of thought,” said IHG SVP Managing Director Japan, Australasia and Pacific, Leanne Harwood.

“Our colleagues come from every corner of the world and from every walk of life. It is one of the greatest strengths of our industry. To miss the opportunity of best representing that diversity in our decision-making would be crazy.”

Challenges and opportunities in our industry are constantly evolving, including critical labour shortages, new and emerging travel trends, and societal issues. IHG is ensuring it has its finger on the pulse around anything that impacts its people, and LINK plays this part well.

Some of the key initiatives that the LINK team have focused on include IHG JAPAC’s purpose and ambition, field sentiment and the approach to internal communications, as well as the company’s key partnerships and technology platforms. 

LINK Chairperson and Area General Manager, Gareth Long, shared his thoughts on the new initiative.

“It’s been a privilege to be involved with this awesome new idea. It’s refreshing to take a step back and spend some time thinking about the bigger picture,” he said.

“Being able to debate with peers and think outside of the box on some of our company’s biggest decisions has been a hugely empowering thing. It really evidences the fact that IHG cares and genuinely wants the involvement and input of people from right across the business.”

LINK connects virtually on a fortnightly basis and comes together in person a couple of times a year to brainstorm and connect with IHG’s Australasia leadership team. The group attended the AHICE industry event in Adelaide earlier this year, including the inaugural Future Leaders Forum.