Eric and Ivanka Trump at the Trump SoHo New York hotel. Photo Credit: Johanna Jainchill
Ivanka and Eric Trump, executive vice presidents of development and acquisitions for Trump Hotels, were at the Trump SoHo New York hotel recently, touting the Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C., opening in September. Ivanka and Eric spoke, respectively, to Travel Weekly contributor Jenny Hart and news editor Johanna Jainchill, about the new property, the hotel brand they introduced and their father being the Republican presidential candidate.
JH: How do you think the D.C. property will do, compared with if it had opened before the campaign?
IT: That would be hypothetical. All I know is that the performance of our existing assets, which is incredibly strong, and the interest in this asset, even in its advanced opening, is the strongest that our general manager says he's experienced in his entire career. So we are certainly surpassing what our expectations were internally for the opening of the property when we initially underwrote it. I think there is nothing like this in D.C., or even the country, and the excitement is tremendous.
JH: The timing of the property's opening is interesting, given the campaign. Did [any of you] know he was going to run for president when you decided to open a Washington hotel?
IT: The hotel long predates his candidacy. We were selected by the [U.S. General Services Administration to develop Washington's Old Post Office] back in 2011. ... So it long predates his candidacy, but certainly there is some irony there that's not lost upon me!
JJ: Your father was always very involved with the properties. How have your roles changed since the campaign began and now that he is the Republican candidate?
ET: We've worked in the company for 11-plus years, all of us. So it's just a natural transition. He has tremendous trust in us and puts tremendous faith in us. We've built so many properties. We've done the acquisitions of so many of the properties. We've run the company for a long time so it was actually very, very seamless. He has implicit trust in the three of us and what we do and the teams we develop. He was always there to guide the process, but he's 100% devoted to the campaign right now, and nothing's missed a beat.
JJ: You, Ivanka and Donald Jr. all have the same title. Do you have the same responsibilities?
ET: You really have one point person on every project. I was in Turnberry, Las Vegas and Chicago. Ivanka and I both did Doral together. We have a great tag team, the two of us, so it really works out well. I just reopened Doonbeg in Ireland... Ivanka really ran point on [Washington], but we all take certain elements. Ivanka took a lot of interior design elements of Turnberry. I took many elements of [Washington], and we all work very, very closely with one another.
We all do development acquisitions. I do all of the golf courses and I do a lot of the hotels. Don [Jr.] does a lot of our commercial buildings, but he's obviously very involved with [Washington]. This is 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. We've all spent an inordinate amount of time on it because it is such an iconic project.
JJ: Your employees say the company gives them creative and managerial freedom. Does that come from the top?
ET: It's a style that you see across everything we do as a company. Our upper-tier management runs very lean. What we do is we get the best people, and we embolden those people to do a phenomenal job, and they do that. We expect greatness from every member of the team, and they build out amazing teams. We've always been of the belief that if you have to micromanage from above you have the wrong person there. Every one of our [general managers] across the portfolio is the same way. They are doers, and they understand quality and they are the best and we expect the best guest experience. It's what makes us click.
JH: The D.C. hotel will have your first spa. How will it be different from other Trump property spas?
IT: It is the first time that we're doing a spa with the Spa by Ivanka Trump brand, and we're not giving too many details yet. We want to have a big unveiling ... but the aesthetic is very special. The treatments, there's a very specific point of view that I think has not yet been done in the spa space. It's going to be an experience very unique to us and our hotel company, a really exciting and curated spa experience.
JJ: Can you tell us more about your new brand geared toward millennials?
ET: It's going to be fun and amazing; there's tremendous excitement. I think by the end of the year we'll have six or seven signed hotels ... some conversions, some [from the] ground up. We turn down so many opportunities because we have to fit into a box, which has to be the absolutely A-plus location and a market that has $500-$600 [average daily rates]. And that works great because we're building the most iconic projects in the world. But I think this allows us to expand our reach while doing something that is super-modern and edgy and great, and contextual for some other markets where a Trump International New York might not work because you're not getting $1,000 a night. It gives us great latitude.