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property report

Throughout his U.S. presidential campaign, Donald Trump has promoted his namesake business, holding events at Trump-branded hotels and golf courses from Scotland to Florida. As the race approaches its conclusion amid a torrent of controversy, his company is launching a new brand that won’t carry his name.

Scion, a line of hotels that will target younger clients, was unveiled last month in a press release that quoted three Trump Organization executives, but not the candidate.

Since entering the presidential race last year, Mr. Trump has offended groups including Mexicans, Muslims, the disabled and veterans. A video from 2005 that showed him bragging about making lewd advances on women prompted almost a dozen to say he’d harassed them – claims that he strongly denies. Those associations will make corporate clients less likely to book Trump-branded properties, said Bruce Himelstein, a former chief marketing officer for Loews and Ritz-Carlton hotels.

“He’s now a polarizing figure. When he was putting his hotels together, he wasn’t,” said Mr. Himelstein, now a consultant. “There’s definitely an impact.”

His campaign has already reeled. A candidate that as recently as three weeks ago was in a close race is now waging an uphill battle to close a gap that’s grown to 5.9 percentage points nationally, according to a RealClearPolitics poll average.

Enter Scion. The new brand is planned for use at city and resort locations, Trump Hotels said when Scion was announced Sept. 28. The new hotels are intended to appeal “to a new and different type of guest in more locations around the globe,” Trump Hotels said. The first Scion location is scheduled to open in 2017.

The Scion flag won’t replace the Trump brand, according to Trump Hotels. It was announced more than a week before the Washington Post published a 2005 video of Mr. Trump bragging about grabbing and kissing women.

“We chose this name as a nod to the Trump family and their tremendous business successes, including Trump Hotels,” Eric Danziger, chief executive officer of Trump Hotels, said in an e-mail. “We want to acknowledge the association with Trump in a genuine way, while allowing the new lifestyle brand to stand on its own.”

Among his property holdings, Donald Trump has eight hotels in the United States and seven in other countries, including Canada. His controversial U.S. presidential campaign has drawn protesters and, as one travel specialist indicates, pushed away customers. (Bloomberg)

Scattered evidence suggests travellers are choosing to check in elsewhere. It’s hard to measure the impact on Trump Hotels of his most inflammatory comments or the allegations of unwelcome sexual advances. Trump Organization doesn’t disclose occupancy rates.

Bookings at Trump hotels through luxury-travel specialist Ovation Vacations tumbled 29 per cent in the past six months, said Jack Ezon, president of the firm. While corporate reservations at Trump Hotels through Altour International Inc. fell 10 per cent this year through Oct. 15, leisure bookings rose so much they provided a 16-per-cent lift overall, said Martin Rapp, senior vice-president at the corporate and leisure travel agency, which has a large number of entertainment clients. After all, more than 13 million Americans voted for Mr. Trump in the primaries.

Trump Hotels is hardly the first lodging company to introduce a new brand aimed at younger customers who may be turned off by older names that can be seen as stodgy. Marriott International Inc. started Moxy, Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. has Canopy, and Starwood, acquired by Marriott last month, added the Aloft brand. The hotel operators are dealing with competition from travel alternatives such as the home-sharing company Airbnb.

Competition from new hotels may be a problem for Scion, said Piers Schmidt, founder of London-based consulting firm Luxury Branding. The new brand diffuses the very things that draw customers to Mr. Trump: the image of a billionaire full of brashness and bling, he said.

Mr. Trump’s “track record is build it tall, build it loud, promote it hard, fill it with people and create this kind of lifestyle – the jets, the towers, the hotels,” Mr. Schmidt said. “There is a litany of new lifestyle brands that are chasing after the millennials.”

Trump Organization has eight hotels in the United States and seven in other countries. Its U.S. properties include the Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C. – housed in the 1899 Romanesque Revival-style Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue, five blocks from the White House – and its foreign properties include the Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver, which is under construction.

During his run for the White House, Mr. Trump gave reporters an April tour of the then-unfinished Washington hotel, held a post-Brexit event at Trump Turnberry in Scotland, and in September returned to the D.C. property to renounce previous claims that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States – after first boasting about his new hotel.

Mr. Trump’s new Washington hotel has been hit with graffiti and protests. “All of my friends refuse to come here,” said Peter Gebre, a resident of suburban Maryland who was dining with his wife and son at the hotel’s restaurant to celebrate his 21st wedding anniversary this month. “It does have an impact.”

The Washington hotel also is offering discounts from its preopening minimum prices, with rooms advertised for later this month as low as $404 (U.S.), compared with the starting rate of $625 initially set by the company. October is typically one of the busiest months for Washington hotels.

Trump Hotels said rates fluctuate for several reasons, including market conditions, and the $404 rate doesn’t provide an accurate picture of the property’s success since its Sept. 12 soft opening. The opening “has been the most successful in terms of opening bookings, interest from groups and large events” in his 10 years with Trump Hotels, Mickael Damelincourt, managing director of the new Washington hotel, said in a statement.

Some believe that for Mr. Trump, who has been putting his name on everything from steaks to neckties and cologne for more than 30 years, any blow to his business could also be fleeting. The candidate has thrived through multiple bankruptcies, the flop of his Trump Shuttle airline and the demise – in a swirl of litigation alleging illegal business practices, denied by Mr. Trump – of his eponymous for-profit university.

“Six months after the election, everyone will forget it,” said Jason Awad, a venue planner in suburban Washington. “He’s very resilient.”