NEW YORK -- Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger acknowledged the
challenges of running a company associated with President Donald Trump amid
political turmoil, from both an operational and expansion standpoint.
The industry veteran, who'd previously served as CEO for
both Wyndham Hotel Group and Starwood Hotels & Resorts, said in an
interview at the Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association conference in New
York that his job description has gone beyond overseeing the company's
14 luxury properties to leading its move into other sectors.
"We're well known on Twitter, and that generally comes
with daily press issues, and I'd rather not have us distracted by press issues,"
he said while referencing protests that have taken place in front
of some of Trump's hotels. "I'm now fairly competent in crisis management
and press communications. These kinds of things are almost full-time."
He also said that last November's election put the kibosh on
the company's international expansion plans.
"We had 26 deals in the works, and I had to back out of
all of them," Danziger said.
Repeatedly referring to himself as "a simple hotel guy,"
Danziger steered clear of offering any opinions on the president's proposed
travel ban or addressing whether the company was capitalizing on Donald Trump's
elected position in launching its latest brand, American Idea. Donald Trump Jr.
said traveling the country with his father on the campaign trail inspired Trump
Hotels to launch the midscale brand.
"There are some people who think the Trump association is a good thing. Not everybody thinks it's not." -- Eric Danziger
Danziger did insist that the president does not insert
himself in hotel operations.
"He doesn't ask me about Russian strategy, and I don't
ask him about hotels," he said. "There really is a church and state."
The first three American Idea hotels will be conversions in
Mississippi, and they may open by the end of the year, Danziger said. The
hotels are in Cleveland, Clarksdale and Greenville, the Associated Press
Danziger said each location will "recognize the unique piece
of its heritage."
"Most brands like to have some big splash," he
said. "American Idea is going to work in every city in America. What
better way to say that than, 'We're going to Mississippi.'"
Also opening in Mississippi is the first hotel under the new
Scion lifestyle brand. The 100-room hotel is due to open by next spring near
the Grammy Museum Mississippi in Cleveland, Miss.
Chawla Hotels is developing the American Idea and Scion
hotels in Mississippi. Chawla has 17 hotels in the state.
The Scion brand was announced last year.
"We've had a couple of false starts where developers
said they were going to do [Scion properties], so we fired them," Danziger
Danziger complimented both the president and his children regarding
their ability to operate a hospitality company, referring to Trump's adult
children as "humble and hard-working." He said the loyalty of the
organization's many long-term employees reflected the president's acumen in
hotel operations and his own loyalty.
"There are some people who think the Trump association
is a good thing," he added. "Not everybody thinks it's not."