Brand Trump and the tourism in­dus­try

Jamaica Gleaner - - HOSPITALITY JAMAICA - David Jes­sop Hos­pi­tal­ity Ja­maica Writer

MIX­ING BUSI­NESS and pol­i­tics is re­garded in most coun­tries as un­ac­cept­able be­cause of the con­flict of in­ter­est it cre­ates. The is­sue be­comes par­tic­u­larly acute if the politi­cian con­cerned not only seeks to link his cam­paign to his com­mer­cial in­ter­ests, but also, seem­ingly obliv­i­ous to the im­pli­ca­tions, then in­sults a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of his po­ten­tial mar­ket.

For this rea­son, the will­ing­ness of the Repub­li­can can­di­date for the US pres­i­dency, Don­ald Trump, to as­so­ci­ate his ho­tels and other branded ven­tures with his cam­paign and then alien­ate many of his po­ten­tial guests sug­gests an in­ter­est­ing op­por­tu­nity for fur­ther study, par­tic­u­larly if a re­cent sur­vey un­der­taken by Travel Weekly is cor­rect in sug­gest­ing that his ex­tra­or­di­nary po­lit­i­cal cam­paign may be hav­ing a toxic ef­fect on book­ings at his per­son­ally branded ho­tels and golf cour­ses.

Right from the start of his cam­paign, Mr Trump made no se­cret of the fact that he would use the cam­paign to lever­age his brand. Speak­ing in the first pres­i­den­tial de­bate, he said: “We’re just open­ing up on Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue right next to the White House, so if I don’t get there one way, I’m go­ing to get to Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue an­other.”

COV­ETED REAL ES­TATE

More re­cently still, to­gether with his fam­ily, he chose to call a press con­fer­ence at the same Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel, a US$200m prop­erty just a few blocks from the White House, to pro­mote what he de­scribed as “the most cov­eted piece of real es­tate in Wash­ing­ton” by link­ing it with his cam­paign mes­sage about his abil­ity to get things done.

Travel Weekly, the in­dus­try pub­li­ca­tion, has re­cently re­ported, how­ever, that a spe­cially com­mis­sioned sur­vey and anec­do­tal ev­i­dence would seem to in­di­cate that link­ing a brand in this way may not be ad­vis­able as busi­ness at his prop­er­ties may be less­en­ing in par­al­lel

TRUMP

with what Mr Trump has said dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and re­cent lurid rev­e­la­tions about his at­ti­tude to­wards women.

Travel Weekly said that it had polled a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of its read­ers to as­cer­tain whether travel agents were see­ing any im­pact, pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive, on de­mand for Trump-branded re­sorts and ho­tels. The sur­vey in­di­cated that around 61 per cent of travel agents – an in­dus­try dom­i­nated by women – re­sponded by say­ing that they were rec­om­mend­ing Trump-branded ho­tels and re­sorts less often than be­fore he be­gan his bid for the White House. More alarm­ingly for Brand Trump, just over half of the agents sur­veyed said that their clients had told them that they were not in­ter­ested in stay­ing at Trump-branded prop­er­ties be­cause of his cam­paign.

Travel Weekly wrote that its re­sults largely re­flected other re­cent re­ports, in­clud­ing re­cent sur­veys con­ducted by the so­cial me­dia com­pany Foursquare and Women in Travel and Tourism In­ter­na­tional. It also quoted a New York mag­a­zine story about the Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel in Wash­ing­ton that sug­gested that the prop­erty may have been drop­ping its rates at a time when ‘all other five-star down­town ho­tels were sold out’.

MA­NIP­U­LATED DATA

In re­sponse, Trump Ho­tels CEO Eric Danziger said that the branded ho­tels had been “tremen­dously suc­cess­ful” and char­ac­terised Foursquare’s data as “ma­nip­u­lated to ap­pear mean­ing­ful”.

He said that Trump Ho­tels were ex­ceed­ing all tar­gets across a va­ri­ety of met­rics, in­clud­ing group book­ings and reser­va­tions vol­ume.

Other re­ports sug­gest that the cam­paign may have touched some in­vestors as well. While some have said that the pub­lic­ity is ex­cel­lent and is en­cour­ag­ing them to take for­ward their joint in­vest­ment plans to work with the Trump or­gan­i­sa­tion, oth­ers in parts of the Mid­dle East have ex­pressed con­cern that the brand has be­come toxic to Muslims.

Mean­while, the Trump or­gan­i­sa­tion is hold­ing ini­tial talks with Trump tele­vi­sion, a planned global brand seem­ingly in­tended to out­fox Fox News.

In just a few days’ time we will know the out­come of the US pres­i­den­tial race. It may take a lit­tle longer to know the com­mer­cial im­pact on Brand Trump.

David Jes­sop

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