Trump CEO Danziger: Challenges won't dissuade expansion

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Aspire CEO Renie Cavallari interviews Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger at the Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association conference.
Aspire CEO Renie Cavallari interviews Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger at the Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association conference. Photo Credit: Danny King

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 reported.

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 said.

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."

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