Trump hotel not worth the trouble for wedding planners, travel agents

Will Trump's DC hotel survive his candidacy?
Will Trump's DC hotel survive his candidacy?

The Trump International Hotel in Washington was supposed to be the latest luxurious prize in the Trump collection.

But to some travel agents and event planners, it's just not worth the trouble.

The hotel has been the target of protests and vandalism since it opened last month. And its namesake's presidential campaign has made the Trump name awkward at best and toxic at worst for those who specialize in the hotel industry.

"There certainly are people who are concerned about the message they send by spending money in Trump-branded hotels," said David Loeb, a senior hotel analyst at the Robert W. Baird private equity firm.

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Brand research studies suggest those concerns are taking hold. A Foursquare analysis showed foot traffic at Trump's hotels, casinos and golf clubs is down 16% this year. And a Young & Rubicam report released Tuesday shows consumers think Trump himself is less fun, trendy and stylish than he was three months ago.

That's bad news for Trump, who claims his name is worth more than $3 billion in real estate licensing and branding deals. Industry analysts say that number is exaggerated.

It's unclear whether Trump's scorched-earth campaign will put a measurable dent in the new hotel's success. It advertises an opulent five-star experience set within the capital's historic Old Post Office and Clock Tower.

But some event planners told CNNMoney that the controversy associated with Trump is a turnoff.

"I'm not recommending the Trump property to anyone," said Tara Melvin, the owner of Virginia-based Perfect Planning Events. "Just based on his character, and his actions and the things that he said over his political campaign."

Melvin and others, like wedding planner Shelby Tuck-Horton, said they wouldn't dissuade clients from choosing the property if they wanted. But they also weren't sure that many would consider it.

"It's just a lot going on with his properties right now because of his visibility," said Tuck-Horton, who runs Exquisite Expressions & Events in Maryland. "I don't know that a lot of my clients would even want to go."

Diane George, the owner of Covenant Weddings & Occasions, also in Maryland, said she probably wouldn't suggest the hotel to avoid political tension altogether.

"I don't ask my brides which way they vote," George said, "so I don't even bring that up."

Related: Donald Trump's brand is 'plummeting,' biographer says

Client comfort was another concern. Eric Reader, the senior vice president and chief operating officer of Connoisseur Travel in Washington, said his agency doesn't work with the Trump chain because it belongs to a different travel association. But he said he probably wouldn't recommend the property even if that restriction didn't exist.

"It's not an environment that you would want to send your high-end clients to regardless of what your political beliefs may or may not be," Reader said. "I wouldn't want to walk through a picket line and have to explain myself."

Room rates also indicate the hotel may be lagging behind its competition. A Tuesday night stay at the Trump hotel was priced at $505 on, more than $200 cheaper than five-star alternatives like the Four Seasons and the Jefferson. Comparable hotels like the downtown Ritz-Carlton and Hay-Adams, meanwhile, had no open rooms.

While Loeb suggested that pricing and vacancy rates can be a good way to see if a hotel's in trouble, he added that those numbers aren't a perfect indicator. Some of those hotels listed heavily discounted rates for a stay this weekend. The only room listed at the Trump hotel Friday night was a pricey executive suite.

Mickael Damelincourt, the property's managing director, said it was the most successful opening he's seen in 10 years working for Trump hotels.

"We're excited to welcome guests and locals to experience this one-of-a-kind property," he said.

A grand opening is expected later this month.

The hotel's finances are not public, but Loeb said those might not tell the whole story either. Brand new luxury properties are likely to operate at a loss as they train employees and promote availability.

Related: Trump unveils massive metaphor a few blocks from White House

The good news for Trump? He may have a chance to bounce back.

"What you really need to watch is, how much is Trump in the news, right?" Loeb said. "How controversial is he post-election?"

Should Trump lose, a low profile might be a boon for the business. Loeb said Trump's most loyal followers -- the blue-collar workers who make up his base of political supporters -- are also the least likely to stay at his lavish Washington hotel.

"What this really comes to is the luxury traveler, the international traveler and high-end groups that are coming to D.C.," Loeb said.

Which means people like George, the wedding planner, will need to decide whether the Trump hotel gets a second look after November 8.

"Right now? No. I would not refer it," she said. "After the election? I may. I don't know."

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