New Zealand native and General Manager of Caravelle Saigon, John Gardner has more than three decades of experience at the helm of leading hotels within the Asia-Pacific region. His long career in hospitality has led him to premier hotels in cities as diverse as Sydney, Melbourne, Perth Auckland, Bangkok, Surabaya, Singapore, Jinan, Chongqing, Phnom Penh, Shenzhen and, for the past ten years, Ho Chi Minh City.
John began his journey in hospitality with the Accor Group in Australia, captaining small hotels around the country before being handpicked to head the launch of the first Accor property in New Zealand in 1993. John spent 18 years with Accor, striking out to the Asian continent with executive posts in Indonesia, Cambodia, China and Thailand. He also spent four years as a General Manger with the five-star InterContinental Hotels group in China, before relocating to Vietnam in 2007.
Last September John took over the role of General Director of the JV Owning Company of the Caravelle Saigon, now with the day to day operation of the property being managed by his successor, he is able to focus full time on the future renovation project of guest rooms and banquet areas.
John says upon arrival in Ho Chi Minh City he was immediately attracted to Caravelle’s reputation. “This hotel holds such an important place in the history of the city and country,” he said. “Over the past decade, the progress within and outside the hotel has been unbelievable.”
During his tenure, John has overseen landmark developments within the hotel, considered one of Vietnam’s most storied properties. Under his direction, the hotel re-branded its signature restaurant Reflections, and celebrated its 50th anniversary with an event that drew luminaries from its wartime past such as Pulitzer Prize winner Peter Arnett.
Most recently John has shepherded the property through the first stage of a significant enhancement project, which saw the refurbishing of the lobby, acclaimed buffet venue Nineteen and ground-floor lounge Café de l’Opera, especially the newly open Tapas Kitchen and Vietnam’s very first Champagne Corner, in collaboration with Moet Hennessy.
John says greater things are around the corner for Caravelle, as the property prepares to enter stage two of the landmark refurbishment and re-positioning – its accommodations and event space from the second quarter of 2017.
“Caravelle remains a key address in both the Heart of Saigon’s physical and emotional landscape,” he says. “There’s no better place, to stay and/or meet, in order to experience true Vietnamese hospitality and to get a sense of the past and the promise this dynamic city holds.”
John is an avid sports person both as a participant and a spectator being a regular gym goer, cyclist and scuba diver but also a keen follower of sports especially New Zealand’s national sport, rugby.