ACT AHA General Manager Jo Broad offers a new mix
Among industry bodies, the Australian Hotels Association is known for being as vocal as it is powerful. In the ACT, the local branch has continually maintained a strong presence among bars, restaurants, pubs and accommodation that has greater scope than some of its interstate siblings.
For local hospitality and tourism business, this something of a boon. In the tight-knit community of Canberra, the organisation is both active and accessible. This will only become more apparent with the arrival of new General Manager, Joanna Broad, following on from Brad Watts who left the position late last year.
‘Jo’ brings a new focus on marketing to build on the AHA’s strong reputation for lobbying and political strategy – a key skillset that will be vital given the competing issues of liquor license restrictions, a new casino and the opportunities presented by international flights.
The Shaker spent some time with Jo at Barton’s Maple + Clove to find out more about the woman leading the local hospitality industry at a time when the opportunities really seem as big as the threats.
Former ACT AHA General Manager, Brad Watts
Returning to the National Capital
From the moment we sit down, it’s clear that Jo Broad has thrown herself into the role CEO at the ACT branch of the Australian Hotels Association. While Ms Broad has only been in Canberra since the beginning of the year, Jo has been a frequent visitor to town, and lived here (for a short stint) around 15 years ago.
“It’s great to be settling back in here again. I’ve moved down from Sydney's Eastern Suburbs, so I really miss the surf. Of course – as every Canberran will tell you – the beach is only 90 minutes away… I love the snow as well, so it’s a fair trade-off to be so close to the mountains as well.
“It’s great to see how much Canberra has grown as a city. It really looks much more confident. From where I sit, there’s a great opportunity to sell this to the rest of Australia, and I’m relishing the chance to help craft that message. There’s a lot to talk about.”
2015 ACT AHA Awards for Excellence, Royal Theatre
Awards for Excellence
As well as a new leader, there are several new staff in the office that is bringing new energy – something that will be needed as the annual ACT Awards for Excellence approach and the team pulls together to put on the biggest event of the year for the hospitality industry.
“The AHA really values the night – not just for the fact that we get to congratulate some of the best businesses in town and send the big winners along to the national awards, but it’s really important that as an industry we get together to celebrate the awesome efforts of everyone to transform Canberra into a city that is being talked about across the country.
Canberra as an international city
“That’s something that’s not going to slow down, either. We’re really keen to work with our members as the benefits of international flights become even more obvious, and the opportunities that such great access to Asia provides becomes even more apparent.
“Visit Canberra have been great partners in these efforts ever since Singapore Airlines made the announcement, and our members really well positioned to promote their businesses to a whole new market of inbound tourists.
“The other large impact upon Canberra’s licensed venues is the yet-to-be confirmed development of Aquis’ casino site. The ACT AHA is enthusiastic for the project, especially given the imminent commencement of international flights. A world class casino is seen very much as essential for a city to be considered an international destination, and obviously this is something that Canberra currently lacks.”
Chairman of the ACT AHA, Michael Capezio, has long advocated for poker machine licences to be available to privately-owned business in Canberra – as can be found just the other side of the border in Queanbeyan.
Privately owned pokies
“I’m certainly aware this is the long-held stance of the ACT Branch,” says Jo, “and it definitely makes sense to maintain the platform. Amending the laws would remove the monopoly currently held by licenced clubs and realise a new revenue stream for our members.
“Outside of pokies, the casino is going to bring so much more economic stimulus to the city. It won’t just be in the construction phase, but for the other activities of those that travel to Canberra to experience the facility when it’s all up and running. As an association, we look forward to Aquis making a final investment decision.”
The impact of new liquor licence laws
Not everything is rosy for Canberra pubs, restaurants and hotels. Plenty of these businesses - particularly bars and nightclubs – are extremely nervous at the prospect of increased fees for operating their licenses and, in particular, earlier closing times.
On this, Jo remains optimistic. “It’s definitely a problem. Some of these changes threaten the very viability of a number of businesses as they currently stand. The proposed 300-500% rise in the cost of licenses is astronomical and, so far, there has been no real justification for this impost.
“This is an important cause for us, and we’ll work with government and our members to ensure the right outcome to protect businesses and jobs. It would be unfortunate if – just as Canberra is being seen as a vibrant city – we move too far to shut down much of the energy and the industry that supports that shift.
Mixing with the locals. Jo Broad (r)
“The movement is building. It’s great to see that our members are working together to develop a social media campaign to confront these issues, and to get their customers and the public behind their response. We’re going to continue to work with government so that we know the industry’s concerns are heard through a more formal process - which is a key strength of our organisation.”
So what else? Well, it’s not all work and business all the time. Since moving to Canberra’s inner-south Jo has taken to enjoying the social side of the industries that she represents. “It’s fantastic. Everyone is just so friendly. I’ve had a great time exploring all the great great bars and restaurants for a drink or a meal while I catch up with friends. It really brings home the importance of the work I do, and how lucky I am to be doing it in Canberra!”
With final submissions on the ACT Government’s White Paper, Building on Liquor Reform due on Friday 13 May, and the ACT AHA Awards for Excellence to be announced on Monday 11 July, there is plenty to be done!