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Interview with Arthur Keith of Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville

Arthur KeithArthur Keith  is senior vice president and general manager of Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee. He joined Gaylord Entertainment in February 2004, from Harrah’s Entertainment, where he was vice president, hotel operations, for the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. What is it that  you do exactly?
My key role as General Manager of Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center is to get people to dream and think big.   We have more than 4,000 STARS (employees) at our resort.   Imagine what they can achieve when they dream big. There is no such thing as a typical day in the life of a general manager of a resort this size.   I personally get involved with guests by meeting with them face to face to learn what they love about our facility and services. I also meet with them and personally take calls and emails to find opportunities to serve those who have experienced some challenges.   I dine with our STARS twice a month during an event called “Food with the Dude” to find out what their needs are and to make sure they have the tools they need to excel in their roles.   Many days include as many as 8-10 meeting and conference calls with team leaders, prospective clients, and the more than a dozen professional, community, and national organizations and boards on which I have the honor to serve.   Surprisingly, putting out “fires” here at the largest non-gaming facility in the nation is NOT something that occupies my time.   We don’t have many of them.   That’s because of our culture that puts our STARS first.   We work to make them happy, challenged and fulfilled.   They in turn work to provide excellence.   But I do travel a lot as I work with our growing Gaylord Hotels corporation and our sister properties, and in an effort to promote Gaylord Opryland.   This is a highly rewarding position because of the people with whom I get to interact and serve on a daily basis.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I like to tinker.   I like to design.   I’m an HGTV fanatic.   I’ve built three homes and I’m a frustrated designer and architect.   A resort of this size provides a constantly changing environment for a creative mind from a number of perspectives. There are the physical needs and currently we are experiencing an exciting evolution that enables me to play a part in the creative design process in a major way.   But an architect, a tinker, can also build careers, and that’s what I’d like to think I’m helping our people do as I strive to be a mentor and give people an opportunity to build on their skills, to use their creativity and to grow.
What would you say are the 3 best places you’ve ever stayed?
This is a really difficult question for me. As you can imagine I really enjoy traveling and staying in fine hotels.   If you are looking at a truly unique, world-class experience, all under one roof, our place is the best. My favorite upscale fine lodging establishments to date also include: 1. The Peninsula in Los Angeles.   The personalized service at that lovely small hotel is like no other. 2. The Palace in NYC.   For an urban setting, nothing compares to the Palace.   It’s the only place I stay in NYC, fabulous in every regard. 3. The Venetian in Las Vegas.   The fun and the food and the rooms. All are excellent.
What’s been your most memorable dining experience to date?
I simply cannot answer this as no meal is the same for me and many I am fortunate to have are an experience in discovery.   Man, do I love to eat fabulous food… and that’s why I’m going to the gym most mornings at 6.   I hate having to balance that out and I hate trying to remember my favorite meal because there are too many good ones.
Have you rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous, either through your work or your travels?
Celebrity encounters and interactions are just another part of this job.   We try to treat all guests like celebs, but people love to hear about the famous people I’ve met at my various hotel positions and here at Gaylord Opryland so here’s a short, fun list. One of my favorite encounters was rubbing shoulders with Wolfgang Puck and Robin Leach who were both wearing blue jeans at Wolfgang’s restaurant in Las Vegas clutching bottles of Courvoisier.   I was with Shaquille O’Neal in the VIP lounge at the Venetian helping him look for kickboxing tickets. Sophia Loren was breathtaking in a red gown at the Venetian and that was an encounter I remember VERY clearly.   Here the list is long: President Bush, Keith Urban, Oscar Robertson, Dick Vitale, Pam Tillis, Brooks and Dunn, Emmitt Smith, Patti LaBelle, Naomi Judd, and Jewel is staying here now every week as host of the USA Network show Nashville Star.   I guess this part of my job is fun, now that I think about it.
What currently ranks highest on your travel wishlist?
Italy and Paris. I’ve also got to get Bose 3 acoustic noise-cancelling headphones.   With two teenagers, those could serve a variety of needs!
Thanks, Arthur. It’s been a pleasure hearing from your wealth of experiences and I’m sure our readers here will enjoy reading this. I understand this has been your first ever blog interview – thank you again for taking part!

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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