Keith Barr ’92: IHG executive, and cultural brand ambassador

November 26, 2014

The Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series (DDLS) brings prominent industry professionals to speak at SHA most Fridays during the fall semester. For 2014, students work in pairs each week to research, meet, and profile featured speakers, and then guest-blog here about the experience.

This week’s student authors are Nikol Limaduran ’15 and Patrick Tan ’16.

Mr. Keith Barr ’92 is chief commercial officer of InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG).

Mr. Barr’s visit as a DDLS speaker was comprehensive and overall extremely positive. His extensive experience as a global hotelier has given him a broad perspective on the hospitality industry, and framed his forward-thinking mindset.

Given the major trends that will be affecting the new generation of hoteliers, Mr. Barr’s presentation mainly highlighted the importance and future impact of technology, big data, and leadership in the travel industry. These topics related back to the strategy that IHG is using for the next five years of expansion, and the approach they are already taking to better accommodate the new trends.

Mr. Barr emphasized the importance of understanding the market and culture of a country when developing new properties there.Mr. Barr has spent the last thirteen years with IHG, and came to represent the company as chief commercial officer, a position that is becoming more common in the industry. He is primarily responsible for leading consistent global strategies while leveraging IHG’s scale and powerful tools and systems to deliver market-leading performance. In his position, he has oversight of all IHG brands, sales, marketing, distribution, and revenue management.

One of the most exciting focal points of Mr. Barr’s presentation was his work and leadership on the development of the new IHG brand “Hualuxe” in Asia. Many students at both the dinner and lecture were highly interested in this project and asked Mr. Barr about his experience. Mr. Barr shared the challenges and successes that he had faced and emphasized the importance of understanding the market and culture of a country when developing new properties there.

At the dean’s dinner, we thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Barr’s company. He has a wealth of knowledge about all sorts of subjects and we learned so many new things about IHG, the hospitality industry, and the history of SHA. We enjoyed being able to interact with Mr. Barr on a personal level and hear about his international career path, as he has spent time in the United States, Australia, China, and now the United Kingdom. It was interesting to hear about the different cultural encounters and challenges he has faced in his time working across the world. We believe that his traveling to so many places has helped him understand many different cultures and connect with people on a very personal level.

As he mentioned repeatedly, the people he worked for always believed in him and believed he could excel. This is how he was able to move up through the operational ranks quickly and work his way outside of the United States and eventually move into a C-level position at IHG.

He encouraged students to keep their options open and follow their passions, as those will eventually bring them success.Mr. Barr also provided more personal advice during the teaching assistant’s session which typically follows the lectures. He spoke about the importance of maintaining balance between work and personal life, and the best ways of managing time. Having a strong food and beverage background, Mr. Barr also related to seniors who are about to enter the industry and are considering non-food-related careers. He suggested that students keep their options open and encouraged them to follow their passions, as those will eventually lead them to great success.

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