Raising questions of both ethics and law, the chief executive of Donald Trump’s hotel company, Trump Hotels, has announced plans to significantly expand the company’s presence in the U.S.
As reported by Bloomberg, Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger suggested that the company could eventually have properties in every major city. “There are 26 major metropolitan areas in the U.S., and we’re in five. I don’t see any reason that we couldn’t be in all of them eventually.”
That would triple the number of Trump U.S. properties, with luxury Trump-branded hotels in the largest cities, and lower-priced Scion hotels in smaller cities.
President Trump has refused to divest his interest in the hotel company, as many have recommended as the only way to avoid real and perceived conflicts of interest. Instead, Trump has turned over management of the company to his two oldest sons, Eric and Donald Jr.
While the company has hired compliance experts to help maintain distance between the White House and the Trump Organization, that separation will be almost impossible to monitor and enforce. Will the President be enjoined from communicating with his sons? Will those family discussions be overseen by compliance officers? Of course not. Indeed, even without explicit company-related communications, the very fact of Trump’s financial interest in Trump Hotels creates an incentive for those looking to curry government favor to do business with his hotels.
Potentially counteracting the increased revenue from self-dealing, there’s also the possibility that Trump’s continued association with his hotel company will have negative financial consequences. As the result of the election’s popular vote showed, Mr. Trump is hardly a universally admired figure. His detractors are highly unlikely to book stays at any of his properties.
The President’s own best interests might be best served by divesting his Trump Hotels stake, at least for the duration of his term. Plus, it’s the right thing to do.
Reader Reality Check
Should Trump divest? And are you more or less likely to stay at a Trump property since he’s been elected president.
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.