30 NOV 2017: What’s in a name? Quite a lot it would seem, especially when that name is Trump. Many observers believe that Donald Trump’s run at the presidency was all a HUGE brand-building stunt. If so, it began to go terribly wrong, even before his against-all-odds election victory.  

The numbers clearly indicate that the more potential hotel guests were exposed to Trump the man, the less inclined they became to stay in his properties. Hipmunk.com reported that, during the 2016 campaign, Trump Hotels collectively experienced a 58 percent drop off in bookings over 2015 levels. Now, after less than 12 months in office, it’s not just bookings that are falling off – the Trump brand is also, quite literally, dropping off his hotels

In June of this year the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto led the way with the announcement of its debranding/rebranding as the Adelaide Hotel. Prior to The Donald’s political shenanigans, the financial district hotel had been a popular destination for conferences and celebs but that all turned around very quickly and during the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, stars and studios alike turned their backs on the property.

Last week Trump’s SoCalled ‘SoHo’ Hotel in lower Manhattan became the latest victim of rampant anti-Trump ‘guesticulations’ when The Trump Organization announced it had reached a deal that will “allow it to exit the property” by the end of December. I say, “so-called” because the hotel is not actually located in New York’s SoHo (South of Houston) neighborhood. Given Mr. Trump’s very loose affiliation with facts, he clearly felt the SoHo branding would be more appealing than its true Tribeca (Triangle Below Canal) location. And after all, pshaw, pshaw, there was already a Sheraton Tribeca!

As was the case in Toronto, the 46-story Trump SoHo had been struggling for some time. Last year LeBron James made a very public spectacle of refusing to stay there and some 20 or so major league sports teams that had been regulars, along with countless corporate accounts, all decided to take their business elsewhere. The hotel’s Koi restaurant closed its doors last April citing too few covers. One former employee, who preferred to remain anonymous, bemoaned the fact that, “Before the whole election thing, we were doing great.”

The New York Times ran what could be described as fairly definitive headlines on successive days last week to the effect that, “Trump Organization Will Exit From Its Struggling SoHo Hotel” and “Final Nights at the Trump SoHo Before Trump Checks Out.” Curious as to how this would be handled, a call to Trump Hotels reservations and the question, “Given the news reports, can I book your SoHo hotel after December?” drew the surprise response, “I’m sorry sir, but we are unaware of any such news.” Must have been fake news!

No matter what happens from January on, for another four weeks guests can still experience the elaborate joys of the Trump Tribeca. These include a 90-minute ‘Ivanka’s Choice’ facial for just $370, or minibar offerings of $75 bottles of ‘Trump Wine’ and $35 packets of chocolate nuggets shaped like gold bullion with – you guessed it – the word TRUMP stamped on them.

Of course, there are still plenty of Trump properties to go round – or around as the case may be. Toronto may be gone but Vancouver still has the Trump International Hotel & Tower. This is the one that launched with such fanfare as Mayor Gregor Robertson declaring that the Trump name and brand, “have no more place on Vancouver's skyline than his ignorant ideas have in the modern world.”

City Councilman Kerry Jang added his support by calling the hotel a “beacon of racism, intolerance, sexism and bullying that is out of touch with the city and over the top in glitz and glamor.”

Ah yes. There’s nothing quite like local support to generate bonhomie!

While Trump doesn’t own the building - his hospitality company licenses the brand to the hotel developer and manages the 147-room hotel. By the way, Councilman Yang might be surprised to learn that tonight you can book a two-queen room for $284, or an executive suite for $484 - far from “over the top.” There again these are surely well below the room rates Mister T must have envisaged for a five star property in a major city.

This trend is by no means unique to Vancouver: A two-night stay at Trump Las Vegas that prior to the inauguration cost around $850 now goes for as little as $300. Over the same period Trump Turnberry, the Scottish golf resort, has experienced a 57 percent rate drop. Trump Doral in Florida is down 53 percent and Trump's controversial Washington D.C. hotel is down 52 percent. At seven percent, Ireland’s Trump Doonbeg was the only hotel showing an increase while the rest slipped between 10 and 63 percent.

If every rule has an exception, then it has to be “The Winter White House.” Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach saw a revenue increase of $17 million last year - and that was before the private club infamously doubled its membership fees following the innkeeper’s move (occasionally) to Washington DC.

So, despite the legions of guests choosing to steer away from the Trump brand, there are clearly still a few that are prepared to pay the pricey $200,000 initiation fee plus their $14,000 annual dues for the chance of rubbing shoulders with the president and eating, “the world’s most beautiful chocolate cake.”

At least Marie Antoinette would have approved!

 

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David Tait

David Tait's insight and irrepressible humour give us an insider's take on the airlines and the industry in general. He doesn't pull his punches, and readers find his columns thoughtful, informative, amusing and infuriating – regardless, David's views on our industry are always original. 

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