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Coming soon to two mostly Muslim countries: Trump hotels

For Trump Tower residents, association with Trump is ‘embarrassing’

Pedestrians pass by the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago on Tuesday.

(Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)

While Donald Trump calls for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., Trump hotels face the challenge of making all guests feel welcome, and two new Trump hotels are supposed to open soon in Muslim-majority Azerbaijan and Indonesia.

This tension between Trump the presidential candidate and Trump the hospitality company raises many questions. Will the Trump hotels try to distance themselves from the candidate? Will Trump’s caustic talk hurt Trump hotels abroad? How many travelers will feel comfortable in U.S. hotels bearing the Trump name?

“I can’t imagine anyone of conscience wanting to step foot in one of his hotels,” said Jay Sorensen, president of Ideaworkscompany, a Wisconsin-based consulting firm that analyzes airline ancillary revenues.

“This, I think, has reached a kind of tilting point.”

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The storm began Monday, when Trump called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S., a move that brought denunciations from political leaders across the spectrum.

My phone calls and emails to Trump hotel executives in New York, Chicago and Las Vegas went unreturned on Tuesday.

Trump Hotel Waikiki spokeswoman Alyssa Hui said “Our hotel welcomes all guests” and “is not in any way affiliated with the campaign … so I have nothing to say about the statements made by Mr. Trump.”

Elsewhere in the travel industry, others had plenty to say.

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In an email on Tuesday afternoon to 2,500 business associates worldwide, Sorensen vowed that he would boycott Trump. Within half an hour, he said, he was getting grateful responses from Norway, France, Chile and the United Arab Emirates.

Though his own protests will matter little, Sorensen said, he expects the national and global response to Trump’s remarks “truly will penalize the finances of the Trump hotel brand.”

At New York-based Dar El Salam Islamic World Travel, which serves many high-end Muslim travelers from offices in Los Angeles, Houston and Lighthouse Point, Fla., general manager Ahmed Mohamed said, “We haven’t used Trump hotels and don’t plan to use Trump hotels in the future.”

Added Mohamed: “That question should be asked not only to Muslims … Would you go to a Trump hotel after what he said?”

The Trump Hotel Collection, which includes lodgings in New York, Las Vegas, Chicago, Miami and Waikiki, has been expanding in recent years, and added a new CEO, Eric Danziger, in August.

In late 2016, the Trump hotel group is expected to open a new hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan, which is 96.9% Muslim. The country, once part of the Soviet Union, straddles the boundary between eastern Europe and western Asia.

In July, Mother Jones reported that the Baku deal connects Trump with “one of the world’s most corrupt regimes.”

In August, the Trump Hotel Collection announced a pact with the Indonesian company MNC Group to operate a “six-star” luxury resort on Bali. Though the island is mostly Hindu, Indonesia is 87% Muslim. (The Bali property would be the Trump group’s first resort in Asia.)

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Alan X. Reay, president of Atlas Hospitality Group in Irvine, said he imagines big trouble behind the scenes at the Trump hotels.

If you’re the manager of a hotel that’s operated by the Trump organization, “I don’t think there’s much that you can do,” Reay said. But in situations where other investors and hoteliers have paid to use the Trump name – “there’s going to be huge fallout from that … You’re obviously paying to drive business toward your hotel, not drive it away.”

Moreover, said Reay, the hotels’ conference business is probably losing corporate customers. “If I’m a corporation,” he said, “I’m sure I’ve got Muslims working for me, people from Mexico or South America, other people who are offended.”

As a decision-maker, said Reay, “why would I assume that risk?”

Candidate Trump’s remarks have roiled his business empire before. In June, after Trump criticized Mexican immigrants, chef Jose Andres dropped out of a deal to open a restaurant in the Trump D.C. hotel slated to open next year. The developers responded with a lawsuit.

Though more than a dozen hotels carry the Trump name, other investors often play substantial roles. In a July article on the bankruptcy of a Trump golf club in Puerto Rico, the Washington Post explained how Trump often makes money by selling the use of his name without risking money.

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Follow Christopher Reynolds on Twitter @mrcsreynolds


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