Trump hotels may be planning an expansion amid calls to divest

Amid controversy over President Trump’s refusal to divest himself from his business interests, the head of his hotel management company hinted at plans to more than triple its domestic hotel operations over the next few years.

Eric Danziger, chief executive of Trump Hotels, said he would like to see Trump hotels expand from its eight existing hotels in seven cities to properties in 26 U.S. cities. Trump International hotels also operate in Canada, Panama, Ireland and Scotland.

“There are 26 major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and we’re in five,” Danziger told Bloomberg News after a panel discussion at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit in Los Angeles. “I don’t see any reason that we couldn’t be in all of them eventually.”

He said Trump Hotels is considering opening luxury properties in Dallas, Seattle, Denver and San Francisco.

A Trump Hotels spokeswoman stopped short of confirming Danziger’s comments, issuing a statement that “we see significant growth opportunity in the United States for both our hotel brands."

The organization has announced plans to launch a lower-tiered brand called Scion, targeting younger travelers who are looking for a hotel with a “strong sense of community.” No locations have been announced for the Scion hotels.

The talk of an expansion comes as the hotel industry has been enjoying increased demand, high occupancy rates and steady growth in overnight rates since the economic meltdown of 2008.

Hilton Worldwide, for example, announced this week the launch of its 14th brand, Tapestry, a collection of upscale, independent hotels. Hilton already has commitments to open Tapestry hotels in Syracuse, N.Y.; Chicago; Nashville, Tenn.; Warren, N.J.; Hampton, Va., and two in Indianapolis.

Trump critics and ethics experts have called on the new president to divest his holdings, including his interests in the hotel business Trump launched in 2007. Instead, he has put his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, in charge of the Trump Organization.

On Monday, an ethics group filed a lawsuit accusing Trump of violating the Constitution if his businesses, including his hotels, receive revenues from a foreign government.

The lawsuit cites the “foreign emoluments” clause that prohibits the president from receiving anything of value from foreign governments, including foreign government-owned businesses, without the approval of Congress.

“There is no doubt that President Trump has been violating the constitution since he took the oath of office,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, one of several legal experts working on behalf of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “This lawsuit simply asks the federal court to enforce the Constitution and reaffirm that no person, not even the president, is above the law.”

Weeks before the November election, Trump took part in a ribbon cutting ceremony of Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C. in a historic post office that the Trump Organization leased from the U.S. General Services Administration.

The lease with the federal agency prohibits any “elected official of the government of the United States” from taking part or benefiting from the lease.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

@hugomartin

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