The best thing about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton said on Sunday night, may be his children.
The business development team at Trump Hotels appears to agree. As Politico pointed out on Friday, at the end of September the company, led by Trump and his three oldest children, announced its new hotel brand would be called Scion. That means “descendant of a notable family,” noted the press release.
What’s really notable, of course, is that Scion is the rare—and possibly singular—venture of the Trump commercial empire that does not wear the blustering patriarch’s name like a badge.
If this does not quite signal the Trump Organization’s retreat from the scandal, lies, and bigotry that have characterized Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, it does appear to represent a hedge of business against politics. And Scion may be an early indicator of how Trump the brand—which birthed Trump the politician—might wind up feeling, and managing, the backlash.
The golden Trump Scrabble tiles aren’t coming off the facades just yet. Scion hotels will mostly be conversions from the purchases of existing facilities. They are supposed to be hip, and in competition with hotels like the W. In that sense, the Trump name might have been a bad fit even before the boss revealed his contempt for Mexicans, Muslims, veterans, the disabled, and women. Scion is supposed to cater to the “ ‘we’ economy,” according to Kathleen Flores, an executive vice president for Trump Hotels. “It’s not a place to stay, but a place to be,” she told Hotel News Now this summer. Scion is about “connections,” said Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger. The concept is modeled on SoHo House.
You don’t need to go furniture shopping with Donald Trump to see why he might not be the most appealing ambassador for that crowd. (In swing states, only 1 in 5 Americans under 35 support Trump for president, according to a September poll.)
Still, Scion represents a sign of humility and realism at Trump corporate HQ that is invisible on the trail. For years, the Trump name was stamped on every asset in the Trump Organization, from condo towers, hotels, and golf courses to steaks and bottled water. Developers licensed the Trump name to encourage investments. And despite never reading books, Trump attached his name to a sham “university” that hawked get-rich-quick schemes.
Now, there are signs—from the business world and from consumers—that Trump may be losing his shine. “Bernie Madoff now has a better brand,” billionaire and Trump nemesis Mark Cuban tweeted last week. Back in August, I found that brokers were disguising listings in Trump-branded buildings using their street addresses.
Managers at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., told Politico that bookings have taken off and that the restaurant and bar are doing better than expected. But earlier this month, a few days before the World Bank–IMF meetings, New York magazine observed that every five-star hotel in downtown D.C. was booked solid—except for Trump International. Of course, you could argue that the cabal of globalist bankers set on usurping American sovereignty would be the ones avoiding Trump hotels. But I was there on a recent Saturday afternoon and can confirm that the place was essentially deserted.
The “check-in” company Foursquare reported in August that check-ins at Trump venues were down about 10 percent overall during the 12 months ending in July. That could reflect a lot of things, but one of the most important is that the Trump brand might be gaining stigma even if it is not losing customers. Foursquare looks at “explicit check-ins as well as implicit visits from Foursquare and Swarm app users who enable background location.”
In other words, people may still be staying at Trump Hotels, just not Instagramming their Trump-brand slippers. At the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, in the Bronx, a plaque on the 12th hole celebrates the “first hole-in-one,” by none other than DJT himself, during the inaugural round in October 2013.
“That’s something a dictator would do,” a friend observed to me disapprovingly. But he has booked a tee time for next weekend anyway.