Emmanuel Gardinier Says There's Plenty to See from Bentonville's 21c

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Mar. 12, 2018 12:00 am   3 min read

Emmanuel Gardinier
General Manager of the 21c Museum Hotel, Bentonville (Beth Hall)

Emmanuel Gardinier has been the general manager of the 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville since it opened in 2013. 21c has a contemporary art museum and The Hive restaurant as part of the hotel.

Gardinier, 54, is a native of Paris and managed hotels in Switzerland, France and the French West Indies before becoming managing director of the Planters Inn in Charleston, South Carolina. He was also general manager at Little Palm Island Resort & Spa in the Florida Keys.

Gardinier graduated with a hotel management degree from the Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne, Switzerland. 

Are there any special considerations in managing a hotel property with a museum?
Indeed, we consider ourselves a museum of contemporary art first, then we happen to have guest rooms and a restaurant. Art is a huge part of what drives us. It allows us to do things very differently and to bring an incredible layer of creativity and a unique experience to our team and our guest. Like any museum, we have great respect for the work of artists and the conversations they start.

You’ve managed some highly respected hotels in your career. How does 21c compare? What makes it special?
The overall philosophy and culture of 21c is not rooted in the past. We do not function like a big-box hotel. The art component allows us a much more open-minded and creative approach. For example, we celebrate failure, as it is an integral part of learning and one that allows us to take risks. We also are a “yes” culture, meaning that as a team we tell each other “yes” and help each other, and, of course, this philosophy is also applied to our guests. Our team members are encouraged to be themselves, and we firmly believe that it is more important to adapt the job description to the individual rather than the opposite.

In comparison to my past experiences at other high-end and unique properties, what we are doing now is offering a truly different experience both for our guests and teammates. We also truly care about our guests and what we can do to make their stay unforgettable.

How did you end up in Arkansas? What did you know about the state before arrival?
I have been following 21c since it opened its first property in Louisville, Kentucky, and fell in love with the concept and the overall culture of the company. When I saw that there was a property opening in Bentonville, I applied immediately. I wanted to be part of the 21c adventure. I knew very little about the state before I decided to apply. I actually flew to Bentonville to discover the area and did a lot of research prior to signing on the dotted line. I have worked in many countries, and I must say I fell in love with this area, especially its people and scenery.

What makes a good hotel?
We all have to care about the guest. The guest experience is key, but it starts with the team — a happy team will make happy guests. If we all care about the guest, all the details will fall into place and we will offer a genuine experience. Honesty with the guest is also paramount. If there is an issue, we are honest about it and make it up to insure the guest will come back.

Nothing replaces good old-fashioned, genuine Southern hospitality.

What is the state of the hotel tourism industry?
Unfortunately, some major players in the industry are concentrating too much on the gadgets and gizmos rather than offering a true human-based, genuine hospitality. It is also regrettable that those companies are charging for things that should be part of the rate, like Wi-Fi for instance, instead of concentrating on their teams and creating an unforgettable guest experience.



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