Trump’s presidency may have put Trump Hotels’ overseas expansion on hold, but the wheels for business growth are well in motion.
The group is currently readying for its Asia debut with two openings in Indonesia in the coming months, and there are plans afoot to target more of the business events and incentive segments.
“About four years ago, the goal was to have 30 Trump hotels (up from the current 11) by 2020. But with Trump’s presidency, the choice was made to not do any more developments outside the US to make sure there is no conflict of interest.
“If a Trump hotel opens in Shanghai for example, people will wonder if it is for some (non-business) reason. The decision was a sacrifice, but also a safe play,” Andy Conklin, vice president of sales at Trump Hotels, told TTG Asia during the recent ILTM Asia Pacific.
Against this backdrop, several segments are coming into greater focus as growth drivers – Asian travellers, business event and incentive groups, as well as three- and four-star tiers with plans to launch two new brands, American Idea and Scion.
“All of Asia has grown in the last two years. We first saw big growth on a small number, and now (there is) big growth on a much bigger number,” Conklin observed.
Deals for Trump Hotels’ first two Asian properties, signed before Trump’s presidency and expected to materialise soon in Indonesia’s Lido and Bali, are hence seen as milestones in the group’s strategy to build brand recognition among Asian travellers and attract them to its hotels around the world, said Conklin.
Following the announcement of a resort and residential development overlooking the south-west coast of Bali, the group has announced another partnership with Indonesia’s MNC Group, a rebrand of the existing Lido Lakes, for a property 65km south of Jakarta.
MNC Group president and CEO Bapak Hary Tanoesoedibjo shared in a press statement: “The area will be a 3,000ha integrated lifestyle resort destination, heralded by the completion of the Bogor-Sukabumi toll road – also developed by MNC Group – which will provide guests an opportunity to escape to this new destination.”
Trump Hotels will be involved in phase one of the 700ha Lido development which will include a six-star luxury resort, 18-hole Ernie Els championship golf course, Lifestyle Country Club, spa as well as a high-end residential offering including luxury villas and condominiums.
Business events and incentive groups make up another key growth segment, as Conklin told TTG Asia that “as a brand we are evolving more into a MICE and groups brand (compared to) four years ago”.
Conklin said recent developments, including the ones in Indonesia, are reflecting that ambition. Trump International Hotel Waikiki, the Trump hotel that traditionally sees the largest number of Asian guests, has just one meeting room, and Trump hotels in Las Vegas and New York are also more leisure-focused. In contrast, the group’s more recent openings have gone big on corporate-friendly facilities.
Conklin elaborated: “We spent US$250 million on four golf courses in Miami, where there’s over 1.1ha of meeting space. Our conversion project in Washington DC (only 1.5 years old) features 3,530m2 of meeting space, and the largest ballroom in the luxury set in DC. Our latest hotel, the year-old Trump International Hotel & Tower, Vancouver, is a small hotel with just 147 rooms, yet features 1,394m2 of meeting space.”
With awareness of these offerings still lacking, Conklin is now at “the many opportunities to educate everyone” stage.
To drive interest, the group is planning to enhance its Trump Card programme to extend rewards beyond “transient guests” to individuals travelling in groups, be it for leisure or business. There are also plans to roll out planner privileges, which incentivises planners with free stays at participating hotels.