Keith Barr to receive 2024 Cornell Hospitality Icon Award

Keith Barr, IHG Hotels & Resorts’ former CEO, has been selected by the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration as the recipient of the 2024 Cornell Hospitality Icon of the Industry Award. He will be honored at the Cornell Hospitality Icon & Innovator Awards ceremony, a fundraiser for the school’s need-based scholarships, in New York City on June 4.

“I am honored to receive this recognition from the Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration especially given the accomplishments in this industry by the previous recipients of this award,” Barr told Hotel Business. “Throughout my career, I was inspired by what they all accomplished and how they shaped the industry. To be part of that group now is something that I never thought or expected to achieve.”

He also acknowledged his many colleagues throughout his career. “This recognition means a great deal to me personally, but I also think it is a reflection of the amazing people I worked with at IHG,” he said. “What we achieved together over the decades in good times and tough times was pretty special, and I hope they recognize that they all played an important part in me being recognized with this award.”

A 1992 Cornell graduate, Barr has spent more than 30 years in the hospitality industry, starting in hotel operations. He was appointed CEO of IHG in July 2017 after serving as chief commercial officer for four years and a member of the executive committee since April 2011. Prior to his role as CCO, he spent four years as CEO of IHG’s Greater China business. He joined the company in 2000.

Prior to joining IHG, he held senior positions at Bristol Hotels and Resorts, which IHG acquired in 2000. He is currently a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board at the Nolan Hotel School and the Dean’s Advisory Council for the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.

“We are honored to recognize Keith and his many accomplishments and contributions,” said Kate Walsh, dean, Nolan Hotel School. “He is such a pivotal leader for our industry, and with his strategic abilities and warm, collaborative approach, Keith has been able to strengthen our brands, build travel and tourism and promote our industry’s seat at the global economic table. He is a model for all of our aspiring leaders to emulate.”

Barr said that he has always tried to have a “positive impact on the industry, on the people around me and especially on the next generation of leaders in the industry,” adding, “I think we all have a responsibility to leave things better than we found them, model the right way to lead especially in the tough times and to help others realize their potential. I hope I’ve been able to do that to some degree over the last 30-plus years as a hotelier.”

He decided on a career in hospitality when he was in his teens. “I remember being in my early teens and we were invited as a family to attend a wedding at a luxury hotel in downtown Boston,” he said. “The hotel was incredible. The food and service was like nothing I had ever experienced. From there, I was hooked on this industry. I knew that I wanted to learn everything I could, so I worked in restaurants, trained under some great chefs and that passion for hospitality led me to attend Cornell University which was transformational for me.”

His experience at Cornell was the “foundation” on which he built his career. “It was a great academic experience, but Cornell is so much more than learning in a classroom. The exposure we had to the top leaders in the industry, the opportunity to travel, to learn experientially and the alumni network all make for an unparalleled education for leaders in this industry.”

To see content in magazine format, click here.