WASHINGTON ― Just days after taking the oath of office, Donald Trump’s business empire celebrated the opening of the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Vancouver, Canada, a 69-story draw ― for protesters.
The downtown tower, with luxury condos, fine restaurants and an Ivanka Trump spa, is actually owned by a development company run by Joo Kim Tiah, the son of one of the richest men in Malaysia. But it’s the Trump name that has brought the Women’s March and immigrant rights protesters to its ornate doorstep.
Now, with Trump Hotels announcing it will triple its properties across the U.S., several prospective cities are saying no thanks.
At a hotel industry conference, Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danzinger announced plans to expand Trump-brand hotels in Nashville, Cincinnati, Dallas, New York City and Austin, Texas. It also hopes to pursue luxury hotels in Seattle, Denver and San Francisco.
“Good luck with that,” Mark Farrell, a San Francisco supervisor, said in a statement to The Huffington Post.
“Donald Trump and the Trump Organization do not share San Francisco values, and I don’t believe San Francisco will ever allow a Trump Hotel in our city,” Farrell added.
London Breed, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, didn’t mince words in a statement rejecting the notion of a Trump hotel in the city, “Maybe we can set him up with a nice room in Alcatraz.”
In Austin, the city’s human rights commission voted, 8 to 2, in support of a nonbinding resolution calling on city officials to boycott Trump hotels and products. Austin Mayor Steve Adler has joined in protests against the president’s executive order temporarily halting refugee resettlements and banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.
In a statement to HuffPost about a possible Trump hotel expansion in Austin, Adler said, “This isn’t surprising because Austin is the best city in America to start a business, but I’m not sure the way we do things in Austin is aligned with the Trump brand.”
Seattle’s socialist City Council member, Kshama Sawant, told HuffPost that the movement fighting Trump has declared a “ban on Donald Trump and the odious billionaires he is associated with.”
“Not only do we not welcome a Trump hotel, we will have a mass movement of resistance and civil disobedience if there’s any suggestion Trump, himself or the billionaires on his Cabinet visit Seattle,” she added.
Elected officials in other cities where the Trump Organization is planning its expansion have denounced the president and vowed to protect their constituents from his actions while not sharing specific opinions about the Trump Organization’s business plans.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has denounced the “authoritarian message” coming from the Trump administration on immigration. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told a local news station that the country is better “than what we are showing right now.” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings appeared before protesters at Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport to voice his displeasure with the president’s order that led to immigrants being detained at that airport and many others.
Trump Hotels’ expansion announcement came after Trump decided not to fully separate himself from his businesses. After claiming that the president “can’t have a conflict,” Trump handed management of his businesses to his two adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric Trump, but he did not sell his ownership stake. He is the first president in the modern era to not separate himself from business interests that pose real and potential conflicts of interest.
Trump’s controversial actions as president are already colliding with his refusal to fully divest himself from the financial benefits of his multibillion-dollar company.
This isn’t the ideal atmosphere in which to vastly increase a brand-centric company’s holdings.
The most likely way that the Trump Organization will expand its hotel business is through licensing deals with other real estate developers. These deals would provide the Trump or Scion brand to other real estate developers who would in turn provide the capital and take on the debt to build and operate the hotel.
Trump’s unpopular standing in most cities where the company hopes to expand could create political problems for the developers they partner with. Many cities and municipalities offer preferential tax treatment through reduced hospitality taxes or tax-increment financing for new real estate developments. There are always other hotel companies and brands that won’t build a protest site in the middle of a city.
The Trump Organization is linked to seven hotels in the United States. It either fully or partially owns hotels at the Trump golf course in Doral, Florida, and in Chicago, New York City, Las Vegas and Washington. The company also licenses the Trump brand to a hotel in Hawaii. Tripling its hotel business would require opening 14 new hotels. Danzinger, meanwhile, has said there is no reason the company can’t be in each of the 26 major metropolitan regions.
The domestic expansion is important for the business as Trump announced that the company would not pursue any new deals outside of the United States while he served as president. This meant canceling deals to license the Trump name to hotel projects in Azerbaijan, Argentina, Brazil, Georgia and India. The company had also made big plans to expand in China, but Danzinger told the hotel conference, “That’s pretty much off.”
That money has to be made up somewhere else ― even if it’s in cities where the president is extremely unpopular.
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