Washington (CNN) — A spacious lobby and bar with only a handful of people. Confused guests asking where they all went. Elegant but empty corridors. These are the scenes CNN observed inside the Trump International Hotel in Washington this month as the once-busy destination faces a new reality without its namesake in the White House.
The hotel opened to much fanfare just months before former President Donald Trump took office and quickly became a draw to Trump loyalists during his tenure.
“We were very busy,” Shawn Matijevich, former executive chef of the hotel’s steakhouse, told CNN. “With so many every day, it was almost overwhelming at times: how many important people and members of our government that you know are in the news are in the same place together.”
But the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has hit the entire hotel industry, along with Trump’s departure from office, now appears to be charging a significant bill at the place the mogul once called “one of the great hotels in the world. world”.
A hotel staff member told CNN this month: “Since the coronavirus we were not doing that badly until, I would say, probably a month ago. It really kind of slowed down.
“It’s normal during this time of year to have this kind of slowdown, but because of everything that’s happening, it really had a different time.”
Indoor restaurants and bars in Washington are limited to 25% of capacity or 250 total people, whichever is less. The nation’s capital had suspended all indoor meals in December as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations spiked.
On a recent Friday night, CNN observed about 30 patrons in the hotel’s bar and lounge over a three-hour span. But the main elevators were only used a handful of times, indicating that not many would spend the night.
The corridors of the hotel seemed almost lifeless around 7:00 pm.
The next morning, hotel staff and Trump’s defense team, then in the middle of impeachment, were some of the only people populating the spacious lobby. No one had breakfast in the living room for more than an hour until two men entered.
“Where is everyone?” Asked one of the men. The waiter raised his hands slightly, as if to express uncertainty.
When asked about the hotel’s current occupancy and revenue figures, Eric Trump, who runs the day-to-day operations of the family-owned real estate empire, praised the hotel in a statement without providing specific figures.
“Our location is unrivaled and we are incredibly proud to have the best hotel in our nation’s capital,” he said.
During another CNN visit to the hotel, only a handful of people were present in the lobby for several hours.
But even before Trump left office and his role in the U.S. Capitol uprising brought further complications to his businesses, the pandemic was putting considerable pressure on Trump Organization properties around the world.
Hotels and other tourism businesses, which are a substantial part of Trump’s business empire, have been hit especially hard during the outbreak, as travelers stay home and governments impose lockdowns.
Trump’s final financial disclosure as president showed sales at the Washington hotel plummeted 63% last year compared to 2019, when the Trump Organization was considering selling it. And those numbers aren’t unique to Trump’s hotel. Data from hotel analytics firm STR shows that the luxury hotel business in Washington has spiraled across the board.
Jan Freitag, senior vice president of Lodging Insights at STR, told CNN that, in 2019, occupancy at high-end hotels in central Washington was 73%.
“Basically one in four rooms was empty,” Freitag said. “Today, four out of every five rooms are empty.”
But the former president’s loyal supporters could still provide some meaningful avenues for revenue to grow. The room rates reviewed by CNN indicate that the hotel may be looking to capitalize on a flow of business from supporters of the unhinged QAnon conspiracy who believe Trump will take office again on March 4.
Although a standard room can usually be booked for about $ 500, according to a review on the hotel’s website, a room on March 4 costs about $ 1,300. The Trump Organization did not respond to multiple questions about whether the price hike was related to the QAnon conspiracy on March 4.
Still, the price hike underscores the appeal the former president can still bring about, even if he’s no longer at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
God bless Donald Trump. I mean, what else can you do? ”A woman recently spontaneously told CNN in the hotel lobby. “We come here and support him.”