TW survey: Trump's candidacy pushing agents, clients to shun his hotels

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The clubhouse at the Trump National Doral Miami.
The clubhouse at the Trump National Doral Miami. Photo Credit: Robert Silk

Amid a growing number of reports that Trump properties have seen business drop off in parallel with Donald Trump's presidential campaign, Travel Weekly surveyed a representative sample of our readers to ascertain whether travel agents are seeing any impact, positive or negative, on demand for Trump-branded resorts and hotels as the presidential race nears the finish line.

The survey revealed that about 61% of travel agents said they are recommending Trump-branded hotels and resorts less often since Trump began his presidential bid.

In addition, just over half of the agents said that their clients have told them they are not interested in staying at Trump-branded properties. The survey of about 1,100 travel advisers conducted Oct. 13 to 17 also revealed that the "Access Hollywood" tape released earlier this month, in which Trump is heard on a hot microphone engaging in a lewd conversation about women with host Billy Bush, has had an impact.  

About 46% of those surveyed said the number of clients asking not to stay in Trump-branded properties increased after the tape surfaced. 

Travel Weekly's results largely jibe with recent reports from sources as varied as social media company Foursquare, New York magazine, and a recent survey conducted by Women in Travel and Tourism International.

FourSquare, which collects location data from people using its Foursquare and Swarm apps, found that Trump-branded properties had about 19% fewer visits in September compared with September 2014. The company also reported that Trump properties have posted year-over-year declines in foot traffic of a similar percentage every month since March.

A recent New York magazine report about the Trump International Hotel in Washington found that the property appeared to be dropping its rates in an attempt to fill rooms, even during peak periods.

According to the magazine, during the World Bank-International Monetary Fund meetings, rooms at the Trump hotel were "heavily discounted," as low as $445 a night on Hotels.com for a room with a rack rate of $805, during a time when the report found that "all other five-star D.C. downtown hotels were sold out."

Looking at data as of Oct. 5, the article said, a weekend stay in the property's deluxe rooms were marked down to $404 per night when the only rooms available at the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown were $1,139 per night.

Meanwhile, Women in Travel and Tourism International survey of just over 200 women in the travel and tourism industry found that following the release of the "Access Hollywood" tapes, 30% said their level of interest in booking accommodations at a Trump property had declined. Another 27% said their interest in booking Trump properties had declined, but due to other factors in his presidential campaign.

Travel Weekly's survey and the results of Women in Travel are particularly worrisome for the Trump brand because they indicate that the candidate's comments and his alleged treatment of women have taken a toll on women's opinions of the candidate.

"The majority of travel agents are women, and travel decisions are made overwhelmingly by women," Travel Weekly editor in chief Arnie Weissmann said last week during a report on the news program "CBS This Morning" about the effect the presidential campaign has had on Trump's hotel business.

Female Factor, a consulting firm focused on the behavior of female consumers, found that 70% of all travel-buying decisions are made by women, and Phocuswright reported that as of 2012, 72% of travel agents were women.

Women constitute a demographic that Trump has struggled to win over. FiveThirtyEight, the polling aggregation site, found that as of Oct. 17, if only women voted, Hillary Clinton would overwhelmingly defeat Trump, by 458 electoral votes to 80.

In response to this article, on Monday Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger said the hotels have been "tremendously successful" and characterized Foursquare's data as "manipulated to appear meaningful".

"As a company, we are in growth mode," Danziger said. "We've been tremendously successful with our super-luxury Trump Hotels brand, with two hotel openings this year, including the historic Trump International Hotel, Washington, D.C The building itself is a world class icon, and we've created a world-class hotel that has already been extremely successful in terms of opening bookings, interest from groups and large events.

"At Trump Hotels, we are exceeding all targets across a variety of metrics, including group bookings and reservations volume," he added. "We are very pleased with the performance of our businesses, and the data reported by Foursquare is manipulated to appear meaningful, when, in reality, the information is inconsequential and does not provide an accurate representation of our performance."

Corresponding to the data in the Travel Weekly survey, travel agents who told Travel Weekly that they hadn't seen any notable impact on Trump bookings in July described a different scenario now.

"When talking to my clients [today], it's like enough is enough," said Stacy Weigant, a luxury specialist at Forest Travel in North Miami Beach, Fla., and a member of the Trump Hotels travel advisory board. "It's just one thing after another after another. And our clients are just getting very tired of his divisiveness and just everything going on with him."

Weigant said one of her clients who as of July had continued to stay at the Trump Soho hotel now said she "absolutely will not."

"She said, 'I love the property, and I love going there and the way they treat me, but I will not support him, and I know my friends feel the same way.'"

Weigant also said that a member of Forest's group department said "they don't even bother offering" Trump anymore.

One group that does not seem deterred by Trump's properties are Weigant's international clients.

"The majority of our international clientele, perhaps with the exception of some from Mexico, are still booking Trump hotels," she said, citing particular strength for Trump's Panama property.

As for her own position on the matter, Weigant doesn't take one, and she is not averse to booking or even recommending a Trump property depending on the client. She also expressed concern for the people who work at the Trump hotels. 

"There are lot of people who have their livelihood based on this," she said, adding that her clients feel the same way. "They are sorry for the employees because it has to be affecting them, but they don't want to support him in that way or any other way."

According to Suzanne Hall, senior director of supplier partnerships at the Ensemble Group, most Ensemble agents "differentiate the brand from the candidate."

However, one Ensemble agent in North Carolina said he intentionally sells away from Trump if a client asks for it, and another will not offer Trump properties if a customer is asking for a hotel recommendation.

"From an Ensemble Travel Group viewpoint, we do not make political judgements but rather assess each property on its individual merit," Hall said.
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This report was updated on Monday to add comments from Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger.

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