Leanne Harwood has been elected president of the Accommodation Association, becoming the first woman to hold the position in the 54-year history of the organisation.
Harwood is IHG Hotels and Resorts’ senior vice president and managing director for Japan, Australasia and the Pacific. She has more than 25 years’ experience in the hospitality industry, including 16 years working around the world with IHG.
Harwood has been part of the Accommodation Association’s national council for two years, and was a board member of Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) for two years prior to that.
The historic appointment of Harwood follows the Accommodation Association’s recent member election.
It also marks the end of Julian Clark’s seven-year tenure as president. He will continue to serve the association as a council member as part of the transition process for the eventual amalgamation with TAA and the Australian Hotels Association.
Commenting on her appointment, Harwood said: “I am proud to be stepping into the role of president at this time of momentous challenge for the industry and change for the Accommodation Association.
“We are moving into the key stages of the proposed merger with the Australian Hotels Association/Tourism Accommodation Association and we need to ensure progress continues in the right direction to drive the best outcomes for our members.
“We also have the ongoing fight for more government support for our sector to get us through the impact of COVID, and we need to make sure that we continue to build the profile of our amazing industry, along with the skills of our people and the workforce needed, moving forward.”
Harwood said she was also proud to be the first female president of the association.
“Diversity, equity and inclusion has been one of the most profound changes in the world of hospitality from when I started out more than 25 years ago,” she said.
“In fact, when I started, I was told that I wouldn’t make it in operational leadership because I would probably leave to have children.
“I’ve worked hard to drive change from the inside and have chosen to take on increasingly senior leadership roles. In doing so, I hope I’ve played a role in making it easier for future female leaders.”
Harwood acknowledged the “significant contribution” of Clark during his time as president.
“He can and should be extremely proud of his impact in progressing the evolution of our association and awareness of the importance and needs of Australia’s accommodation sector,” she said.
“The council and I will be working closely with interim CEO Richard Munro to ensure the needs of our members continue to be met and awareness of the critical need for support for Australia’s accommodation providers continues to pick up speed.”
Clark said it had been “a privilege” to lead the Accommodation association over the past seven years.
“Thank you to the members and board for their faith in me,” he said.
“I’d especially like to thank our vice president Simon McGrath, our treasurer Bruce Copland and the two CEOs that I worked with, Dean Long and Richard Munro.
“I am proud to depart the role with the association in a very strong place – in terms of advocacy, member benefits, financial strength and general association strength.”
Munro’s return to the Accommodation Association was only announced last week, following the departure of Dean Long, who was named the new boss at the Australian Federation of Travel Agents in July.