The International Hotel and Restaurant Association (IH&RA) is a well known name to hoteliers around the world. Having just completed its sixtieth year, it is not one of the oldest associations in the hotel industry but it is probably the only hotel association that has members from around the world and actually bills itself as “the only business organisation representing the hospitality industry worldwide”. But its hoary tradition as a forum for not just leaders in the hotel industry but even political leaders appears to be headed for the dustbin of history.
At its “statutory meetings” last week in Nice, France, the organization washed its dirty linen virtually in public and displayed its frail finances, dwindling membership and political machinations for all who cared to show up. And that is a real shame as the ihra not only brought together associations from around the world but in the not too distant past had among its membership hotels, small and large, who brought different and diverging perspectives that contributed to the vitality of the organization. A couple of years ago, when deficits dogged the organization, in shoot-yourself-in-the-foot feat that only institutions that are determined to seek the path of extinction, IH&RA got rid of its small members and all the associated dues they brought in. That has been compounded by ineptness in marketing itself to many of the world majors – most of whom are NOT members.
Among its other woes are an annual “congress” that never occurred for this year – originally scheduled for New Delhi, India, the venue was switched to Buenos Aires, Argentina as hotel rates in India turned out to be higher than expected. That was followed by Argentina pulling the rug from under as they withdrew sponsorship. Other misdirected efforts include considerable energies spent with the WTO and other UN affiliated organization “fighting” universal standards that the WTO seeks to impose. That the WTO is a toothless organization geared at spending the tax-payer funded monies in producing reams of reports that few read and even less implement is entirely a relevant matter.
IH&RA has long exhibited the classic signs of organization failure – weak financial systems, poor leadership, inability to adapt to a changing market place and most significantly alienating its customer base. What happens next depends on the next president and a reorganization of its corporate affairs to bring in new talent and a new locale away from stifling Paris. At a minimum, the prestige associated with the name and the forum it will continue to offer ought to form a basis for a fresh start.