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Are the president’s policies hurting the Trump hotels?

Trump hotels
Protesters march along Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 4, during a rally protesting President Trump’s immigration policies. Hotwire and Priceline are catching heat for booking Trump hotels.
(Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)

Since President Trump took office, controversy over some of his policies has triggered noisy protests and rallies in front of hotels emblazoned with the Trump name.

It is uncertain if the rallies and protests have hurt business at Trump hotels but online travel sites that book Trump hotels have come under increasing fire from critics of the president.

Trump Hotels includes eight properties in the U.S. and five international locations that are either managed or branded by the New York company, founded by Donald J. Trump.

Online travel booking sites such as Hotwire and Priceline are under attack on social media from Trump critics who say they fear those sites may book them into a Trump hotel without their knowledge.

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Travelers who use Hotwire.com and “Express Deals” on Priceline.com can request a room in a specific city but aren’t told the hotel name until after they pay. Hotels, car rental companies and airlines can use such “blind” booking sites to unload vacant rooms, empty airline seats and unused cars without lowering their prices on traditional sales channels.

But since Trump was elected, a growing chorus of Trump critics has complained that Hotwire and Priceline have booked them into Trump hotels. They are asking the websites to either eliminate Trump hotels from the sites or give travelers the option to block Trump hotels from their lodging search.

“WARNING: Do not use @hotwire! Their “hot rates” include #Trump hotels & they will not cancel. Learn from my mistake. #NeverTrump,” Dave Vanness, a data scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, posted on Twitter recently.

Bernard Harcourt, a law professor at Columbia University, has called for a boycott of Hotwire on Twitter, saying he searched for a room in Chicago on Hotwire to attend a protest of Trump’s travel ban and got booked into the Trump International Hotel & Tower.

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Hotwire declined to say if bookings on the site have dropped since Trump was elected, but company spokeswoman Geena Marcelia said, “we are aware that certain travelers have shared concerns around booking a Trump Hotel property.”

“Our customers’ satisfaction is very important to us,” she said. “To that end, we are currently taking these comments into careful consideration.”

Priceline declined to discuss the controversy.

Trump Hotels doesn’t report its financial data to the public but a spokeswoman said the company has enjoyed a 10% increase in reservations in 2016 over the previous year.

“Our business is incredibly strong,” Trump Hotels spokeswoman Christine Lin said. “We are exceeding targets across a variety of metrics, including overall bookings, website visits and revenue.”

Still, the kind of controversy that has erupted since Trump took office Jan. 20 can’t be good for a hotel brand, said Alan Reay, president of Atlas Hospitality.

“Look at it from a corporation’s standpoint,” he said. “If you are booking a meeting, you are going to look for a hotel that is going to help you, not hurt you. A corporation may have Muslim people they want to attend the meeting.”

hugo.martin@latimes.com

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To read more about the travel and tourism industries, follow @hugomartin on Twitter.


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