A scary scene unfolded at the Trump National Doral Golf Club in Miami last night as an anti-Trump activist decided to demonstrate his disapproval for the President by opening fire in the hotel’s lobby. Fortunately, police were able to subdue the lone gunman without any hotel staff or law enforcement officials sustaining serious injury.
The suspect allegedly draped an American flag on the desk in the lobby and began shouting “anti-Trump sentiment” before firing shots towards the roof and chandeliers. Of course, this is not especially surprising given the political climate and the industry, particularly Trump Hotels, has to be armed and ready for this sort of behavior. Unfortunately, it most likely won’t be the last such incident.
There’s no question that President Trump is a lightning rod for controversy and while the public may have plenty of opinions on what type of job he’s doing, those in the lodging industry have a whole different perspective. And that perspective is still very much evolving.
Being a hotel owner himself, this President was expected to be much more “hotel or business friendly” than his predecessor. At least that was the hope of many throughout the industry. And while his tenure may have gotten off to a rough start with the so-called ‘travel ban’ and a subsequent decline in incoming tourism, it’s hard to argue with the overall results thus far.
The U.S. lodging industry is projected to produce another solid year of better than 3 percent RevPAR growth despite being some nine years into the current economic cycle. Does the Trump administration deserve to be given credit for that? Probably not, as most leading research firms will tell you it’s due in large part to solid fundamentals.
However, the part of the equation that can’t be downplayed is the U.S. economy. GDP growth continues to rise, the stock market has reached record heights during the past year and unemployment levels are at a 17-year low. All these factors have bolstered consumer confidence and kept Americans traveling at a steady clip.
In addition, President Trump has delivered on his promises to be business friendly. In addition to tax reform and the recent passing of the Jobs Act, an emphasis on deregulation has resulted in over 900 regulations being rolled back.
Linda McMahon, administrator of the small business administration (SBA), recently noted during the Asian American Hotel Owner Association (AAHOA) conference that 2017 was a record year of small business lending at the SBA and 2018 is off to an even better start. McMahon believes it was more than just a coincidence as she talked about the current environment.
“Entrepreneurs tell me they are feeling confident in themselves and in the economy. They’re ready to invest in their business again. To what do we attribute this optimism, it’s impossible to know for sure, but I’d say much of it has to do with this administration’s commitment to be an ally and advocate for small businesses,” she said.
Nevertheless, the impact of some of this administration’s rhetoric and tough political stances does come at a price. The correlation between how America is viewed by other countries throughout the world and their likelihood of visiting the U.S. certainly is strong. Much of the reason for the optimism and development within the industry—particularly when it comes to large publicly traded brand companies—has been based on an anticipated surge in tourism, particularly from Asia.
But the international issues are closer to home as well as plans continue to move along, albeit quite slowly, for the much publicized border wall for Mexico. Many in the industry remain concerned about what closing off the Mexican border from illegal aliens would mean for their hotels who rely on those workers and cheap labor to do the jobs many Americans won’t.
These are just a few of the geopolitical issues that bear watching by the hospitality industry. Meanwhile, as we approach the summer—a key barometer to determine how the second half of 2018 will play out—factors like gas prices will become front and center as well.
President Obama was widely criticized in his first term for discouraging travel by large corporations, particularly to locations like Las Vegas, in the wake of the financial meltdown. In fact, fairly or unfairly, it became known within the industry simply as the ‘Obama effect.’ What the ‘Trump effect’ will be on the lodging industry is still very much a work in progress.