After an illustrious career with the Australian Hotels Associations South Australia (AHA|SA), Ian Horne has announced his plans to retire from the role in July.

Horne has been CEO of AHA|SA for 31 of the last 38 years – with a brief interlude from 1998 to 2005 heading up the Motor Trade Association of South Australia – having first taken on the role in 1986, replacing Bill Spurr AO.

AHA|SA President David Basheer advised AHA|SA members this week and said that the early announcement now allows for an orderly transition to an incoming Chief Executive Officer.

“Ian Horne’s 31-year contribution to the tourism and hospitality industry and the AHA in particular in South Australia, and indeed the wider business community, is unrivalled,” stated Basheer.

“Ian has been at the forefront of initiatives that has seen the hotel sector not only survive some of its most challenging issues ever but thrive and grow into an industry that contributes well in excess of $4 billion to the State’s Gross Product.”

“More recently, our hotels, be they the major international accommodation venues in the CBD through to the countless mum and dad owned country pubs in the regions would not have emerged from Covid in the shape they did without Ian’s extraordinary advocacy efforts.”

Horne will remain active within the state’s wider hospitality industry, as he is on the boards of Business Events Adelaide, the Adelaide Venue Management Corporation and the South Australian Tourism Commission. He told Australian Hotelier that he felt it was “time to leave on a high.”

“While age isn’t a barrier, I’ll be 69 by the time I retire and most people would think that’s a good innings.”

Achievements and highlights

South Australian pubs have changed significantly under Horne’s decades-long tenure, going from very limited offerings to multi-faceted venues that reflect the wants of their communities.

“When I joined the AHA in the early 80s, we had just got Sunday trading, and here we are in 2023, and I’m arguing with LGAs about codes of practice about trading at 6am in the morning,” states Horne.

When Horne began at the AHA, South Australian pubs were typified by a male-dominated public bar offering, but have since evolved into a sophisticated venues with offerings that vary from food-focused venues, to well-thought-out sports bar and gaming offerings, accommodation and events facilities. The pubs are also very female- and family-friendly now.

“Our hotels are now far more like what you would see in Melbourne and Sydney. There are a diverse range of offerings from great casual dining to upmarket restaurants, to fabulous sports bars and excellent bottleshops. They’re the total package now.”

Well-respected throughout the South Australian and broader pub community, Horne has hade some big wins for his home state throughout his time as AHA|SA CEO.

A big one was the introduction of gaming into South Australia in the 1990s and the AHA|SA’s role in helping craft legislation and governance around it. When it was being introduced the then State Government was looking at having gaming be monitored by the Lotteries Commission. The AHA|SA under Horne and Clubs SA proposed a private industry body, the Independent Gaming Corporation to monitor gaming and report directly to the government.

“The Independent Gaming Corporation is still the central monitoring system for every poker machine in South Australia. It’s had a flawless track record and that’s enabled the industry to keep the costs of monitoring to a minimum.”

Horne was also able to negotiate a model where there was no differentiation between pubs and clubs, with any venue able to house up to 40 EGMs.

“On the liquor licensing side, hotels had a premium position in the licensing hierarchy in every state, that was slowly unwound and undermined in many states, but to this day in South Australia, there’s still a preferential place for a hotel license,” he adds.

As he gets ready to vacate the top job, Horne’s assessment of the current pub landscape in South Australia is glowing.

“The shape it’s in is extraordinarily healthy at the moment. Just twelve months out from the worst of covid and in South Australia  and the recovery has been quite extraordinary – whether that’s accommodation, F&B or gaming.”

The landscape is so healthy, that it’s begun to attract the interest of interstate operators, who are bringing even more dynamism with them.

“We’ve now got a significant amount of interstate interest, with operators and investors looking to purchase hotels in South Australia – not just in the city but in country and regional areas too. That’s been great for operators looking to sell with a fairly reasonable return.

“It’s injected new money, new people, new thoughts and ideas. So I’d have to say the industry in 2023 has never been more vibrant, desirable and optimistic.”

Horne’s replacement will be determined by an executive search canvassing internal and external candidates, and utilising external consultants Sullivan Consulting. It is hoped a successful candidate will be in place by the end of March, allowing a three-month handover before Horne departs.

Vanessa Cavasinni

Vanessa Cavasinni is the managing editor of Australian Hotelier and Club Management, trade publications for the pub and club sectors respectively. Vanessa has been at the helm of Australian Hotelier since...

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