How the Online Reputation of Trump Hotels Has Developed Since President Trump’s Inauguration
Since President Trump took up residence at the White House, there has been an abundance of media coverage relating to his personal business interests, including his hotel empire. Whilst it is unprecedented that a hotelier is also Commander in Chief, it would be reasonable to expect that this would also have a positive impact on his business investments, but is that really the case? What impact did Trump’s Presidency have on his hotel empire’s reputation?
The Trump Hotel group consists of 13 properties predominantly located in the United States of America and Europe. With online reputation continuing to be a key component of any hotel marketing strategy, we strongly believe that effectively managing reviews on sites like Booking.com, TripAdvisor and Facebook is critical to ensuring a high occupancy rate, guest loyalty and consistent revenue – and even those owned by a President are no exception.
Whilst it’s clearly known that services, facilities and employee commitment have a high impact on the online reputation of a hotel, it’s uncertain whether some other external factors – such as a Presidency – can also play an important role.
President Trump took office on the 20th of January, 2017 as the 45th President of the United States. On the anniversary of his inauguration, it is logical to reflect on Trump Hotels’ online reputation both in the year before and after his taking office. The least which we can say is that a lot has happened over the last year for Trump Hotels, alongside speculations as to whether or not a decent reputation can be maintained.
Looking at the Trump Hotel group on a global basis, we see that Trump’s Presidency has not had a material impact on the online reputation of its’ hotels. In fact, the global average rating for the year before and after President Trump’s inauguration stayed relatively stable at 87.6% vs 87.4% respectively.
Looking closer at some specific hotels, we do see significant gaps between the different properties.
The Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C gained the largest increase over the 12-month period from 81.5% to 91.9%, whilst both New York City hotels suffered a significant drop, with the SoHo property dropping from 87.1% to 83.3% and the Trump International Hotel & Tower losing more than 6 points from 82.6% to 76%.
But how do these review scores compare to other similar hotels in New York? By comparing the two hotels to similar status hotels, such as The Plaza and St. Regis, we can further understand the significance of this decrease. Over this 12-month period, The Plaza maintained a steady rating of 89%, whilst the St. Regis had only a slight decrease in their level of guest satisfaction – sliding from 93% to 91%. This means that Trump International Hotel & Tower went from a competitive review score compared to their main competing hotels to a visibly lower standard.
Unfortunately, the Trump SoHo Hotel suffered a similar fate. Comparing the property to Mercer Hotel and the NoMo Hotel, which saw minor fluctuations from 86% to 87.5% and 82.9% to 81.7% respectively, we see that the Trump SoHo Hotel went from leading the pack to second place.
Needless to say, these scores remain quite competitive in the wider market, and many hotels would be pleased with such a level of guest satisfaction in a competitive market.
(Overview across several review platforms, e.g Google, Booking.com, Tripadvisor… at the indicated periods).
Washington D.C, at the center of speculations
Aside from initial impressions, it makes sense to look closer at the properties most affected (positively and negatively) by Trump’s Presidency.
It’s only fair to wonder whether the Washington D.C hotel receives a positive impact from being located within the city which the President himself resides. However, analysing this is more complicated than it first appears. The property’s opening was controversial as it took over the Old Post Office location, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, raising concerns of conflict of interest as reported by CNN. It came under even more scrutiny when the Trump administration was reported to have encouraged international emissaries to stay at his property.
To make matters worse for the Trump flagship hotel, two of the hotel restaurant chefs decided not to continue their association with the name of Trump after his public allegations towards Mexicans and the opening was lauded by the press.
Undoubtedly, these public relations issues would have had a negative impact on the reputation of the individual hotels and the group at large, but how did this reflect with what the guest themselves said?
Two example reviews evidently do not represent the global voice of the customers but still give an indication into the sentiment that consumers have difficulty separating between – Trump, the President and Trump, the hotelier.
Looking at the Washington D.C property, we can see that there were many negative reviews received in the few months following its opening in September 2016. Interestingly, after Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, the hotel reputation stabilized before suffering a slight decrease in the second half of the year.
Lastly, Trump Hotels have had to recently deal with the “sh*thole” incident which has brought a lot of negative commentary – both towards President Trump and the hotel in the form of online reviews. References to the term “sh*thole” quickly increased from no previous mentions to over 1,000 instances since the story leaked primarily on platforms like Yelp and Facebook – the majority of which are presumably fake.
If Trump has a lot detractors, he surely has a fan base staying at his properties and the least we can say is that they do not hesitate to express it. Here are some striking examples from the Trump International Hotel & Tower in New-York.
Difficulties in New York and the reputation of the hotel group in trouble
In Trump’s hometown of New York City, we have already noted that Trump Hotel ratings went down. Looking deeper, it seems to be obvious that the impending U.S. elections in November 2016 negatively impacted Trump’s venues in the democrat stronghold of New York state. Between October and November, both hotels collapsed dramatically before ultimately recovering by January:
- Trump SoHo NYC: from 91.8% to 81.4%
- Trump International Hotel & Tower NYC: from 90.1% to 76.2%
If the numbers don’t lie, there are also some qualitative influences which occured within the Trump Hotels over the last year. For example, the loss of 2 hotels for The Trump Organization.
The first to leave the group was the formerly known as Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto which saw its brand affiliation terminated in June 2017 primarily due to negative associations with the Trump name.
Secondly, the Trump SoHo in New York has also been recently renamed to “The Dominik Hotel” after the Manhattan District Attorney’s office began building a case against Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. for misrepresenting the success of the building to potential buyers amidst reports stating the hotel room prices were falling throughout the year and several high profile NBA teams opting to boycott the hotel.
Further setbacks continued for Trump Hotels in 2017, including the cancelled opening of a new hotel in Dallas and a hotel in Panama wishing to erase Trump’s name from the property. Rumours around the properties in Chicago and Vancouver taking similar action are already circulating. This culminates in additional risk as investors and developers distance themselves from the Trump name, which could even spill over to his real estate ventures.
It is not necessarily obvious that Trump Hotels are currently suffering from a bad reputation, especially when strictly looking at the figures. It appears that there is a deep impact at other levels which are having a indirect influence on the properties. Flagship properties, like those in New York, deciding to drop the name or the obstacles faced in the development of several new projects, are both signs of an uncertain future for the hotel operator. Undoubtedly aware of the potential repercussions, the CEO of Trump Hotels admitted during an interview with Skift to a change in the focus of the company’s development, with all the efforts to be concentrated in U.S. domestic growth despite the continual strength – with satisfaction ratings above 90% – of the three European properties’ online reputation. In conjunction with The Guardian and YouGov’s recent analysis, we are able to gain further understanding on how Americans feel about Donald Trump’s hotel brand in comparison with other luxury brands and better understand why the company seeks to strengthen in the U.S considering the gap between their properties and those of competitors, such as Ritz-Carlton or JW Marriott.
What is the future for Trump Hotels?
We should keep in mind that what ultimately influences the online reputation of a hotel resides in the service, the professionalism of the staff and the comfort of the rooms amongst other factors. People develop loyalty to brands, and there is no doubt that Trump Hotels is as capable as any other brand to generate loyalty when looking at the level of the service they offer. However, based on the sayings of their CEO and the frequent hostile declarations of Donald Trump himself, it is foreseeable that the hotel group will have to proactively manage their online reputation in order to maintain loyalty from existing guests and attract new guests to their properties.