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'Go Big or Go Home': Donald Trump Talks Expansion Plans with HotelChatter

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March 27, 2012 at 3:44 PM | by | Comments (0)

Recently in Chicago for meetings, Donald Trump sat down with us at Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago for the chance to talk hotel bidness. Sitting across the table from Trump in the hotel’s newest board room, there was an eerie pull tugging us toward "Apprentice"-land, but we shook it off and stayed the course.

And anyway, we were far more captivated by the latest action in the Trump Hotel Collection and some very recent changes right in Chicago (including Sixteen’s new executive chef Thomas Lents and a new boat dock for Wendella's Chicago River Architecture Tours -- more on that coming soon).

We half expected Trump-is-bigger-than-thou answers and definitely got our share. But Mr. Trump did throw us a few unexpected curveballs, all of which suggest the king of bajillion-dollar hotel and real estate investments is now, more than ever, rockin’ the mantra, “go big or go home.”

Surprise No. 1: Trump may grow his collection faster than ever before.
This year alone, he's already opened a new hotel in Toronto, scored Washington’s historic Old Post Office Pavillion with plans to turn it into another luxury hotel, and, most recently bought Miami’s flailing Doral Hotel & Country Club, with $150 million in cash and big plans for renovation. All in two months time. All in this economy.

“We are putting a lot of money into the Doral which is in a fabulous location in Miami,” said Trump, “and it’s going to be better than it ever was before.”

“Now the post office was a property that everyone wanted to get their hands on,” shared Trump. “We are going to work with the existing property and tremendous history there, and I think it’s just going to be great.”

When we asked about the speed of future hotel expansion plans, Trump didn’t hesitate. “We will continue to grow at the same speed, if not faster.” Based on this year’s track record of amazing acquisitions and new openings, that’s an impressive statement. We can hardly wait to witness what it will actually mean.

Surprise No. 2: Trump Chicago’s Riverwalk space may soon include ballrooms.
Trump Chicago’s Riverwalk space, a picturesque, four-story retail space located right on the Chicago River, has been painfully vacant since it opened in 2010. While that’s about to change with the opening of celeb hairstylist Anthony Cristiano’s first salon (does dos for the likes of Mariah Cariah and Demi Moore), we got all starry-eyed at Trump’s next suggestion.

“Something we’re actually going to talk about today in our meetings,” said Trump, “is the possibility of putting ballrooms in the Riverwalk.”

Wowza. Imagine elegantly dressed events sashaying out onto breezy balconies right above one of the best spots on the Chicago River, Lake Michigan in the background, iconic tall buildings hovering above, a boat gently bobbing at the new dock. We could think of nothing else like it in the city.

“Me personally, I like the idea of ballrooms,” said Trump. “I think it’s exciting in that space overlooking the River.” Right on, sir. It would be amazing. You've got our vote.

Surprise No. 3: There are no plans to consistently offer free WiFi across the Trump Hotel Collection.
We’re big on in-room Internet access at HotelChatter and can’t help but to get chapped whenever hotels -- especially the luxury brands -- don’t offer it for free. While some hotels in the Trump Collection (like Chicago) do include in-room WiFi in the room rate, others (like Trump SoHo New York) charge a fee.

We asked Trump if he had any plans to make in-room WiFi an amenity that's included in the room rate. “As WiFi becomes more and more available and you can get it anywhere,” said Trump, “we’ll include it in the room rate for all our hotels.”

Fer reals?

Surprise No. 4: Trump hotels embody the epic myth and power surrounding the man.
Pretend we never shared surprise no. 3 because we’ve suddenly remembered the heart we’ve found for Mr. Trump. Impressive beyond his reputation, he gives off an amazing, positive energy that we didn’t expect and totally loved.

And strangely -- or quite perfectly – we found it to be the same commanding, elegant and comfortable vibe you find yourself feeling the moment you step inside a Trump hotel.

[Photos: HotelChatter; Doral Resort and Spa and HotelChatter]

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