The hotel had opened with great fanfare just months before former President Donald Trump took office and quickly became a draw for Trump loyalists and insiders throughout his tenure.
“I mean, we were very busy,” Shawn Matijevich, the former executive chef of the hotel’s grill restaurant, told CNN. “With so many people around each day, you know it got overwhelming at times – how many personalities and members of our government that you know are making the headlines are all gathered in one place.”
But the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – which has impacted the entire hospitality industry – coupled with Trump’s removal from office, now appears to be having a significant impact on the place Trump once dubbed “l ‘one of the great hotels in the world’.
A member of hotel staff told CNN this month: “Since the coronavirus, we haven’t been in so much pain as I would say probably a month ago. It has really slowed down.”
“It’s normal at this time of year to have this kind of slowdown, but because of everything that’s going on, it really had – a different time.”
Indoor restaurants and bars in Washington are limited to 25% of capacity or 250 people total, whichever is smaller. The national capital had suspended all indoor meals in December as Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations increased.
Recently, on a Friday evening, CNN observed around 30 customers in the hotel bar and lounge over a three-hour period. But the main elevators were only used a handful of times, signaling that few people were staying overnight.
The hotel hallways looked almost lifeless around 7:00 p.m. ET.
The next morning, hotel staff and Trump’s impeachment defense team were among the only people in the vast lobby. No one had breakfast in the living room for over an hour before two men entered.
“Where is everyone?” one of the men asked. The waiter raised his hands slightly, as if to express his uncertainty.
Asked about the hotel’s occupancy rate and current revenues, 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 numbers.
“Our location is second to none and we are extremely proud to have the best hotel in our country’s capital,” he said.
On another CNN visit to the hotel, a handful of people were in the lobby for several hours.
But even before Trump steps down and his role in the U.S. Capitol uprising poses further complications for his businesses, the pandemic is putting tremendous pressure on the properties of the Trump organization around the world.
Hotels and other hospitality companies, which constitute a substantial part of Trump’s business empire, have been hit particularly hard during the outbreak, with travelers staying at home and governments imposing lockdowns.
Trump’s final financial disclosure as president showed Washington hotel sales fell 63% last year from 2019, when the Trump organization was considering selling it. And these numbers aren’t unique to Trump’s hotel. Data from hotel analyst firm STR shows that luxury hotel activity in Washington has exploded across the board.
Jan Freitag, senior vice president of Lodging Insights at STR, told CNN that in 2019, the occupancy rate of upscale hotels in downtown DC was 73%.
“So basically one in four rooms was empty,” Freitag said. “Today, four out of five rooms are empty.”
But staunch supporters of the former president could still provide significant leads for future income. Room rates reviewed by CNN indicate the hotel may be looking to capitalize on a flow of business from supporters who follow the unbalanced QAnon conspiracy theory and believe Trump will return to power on March 4.
While a standard room can usually be booked for around $ 500, according to a review of the hotel’s website, a room on March 4 costs around $ 1,300. The Trump organization has not responded to multiple inquiries about the connection between the price spike and QAnon’s March 4 plot.
Still, the price hike underscores the raffle that the former president can still order, even though he’s no longer on the road at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“God bless Donald Trump. I mean, what else can you do?” a woman recently told CNN in the hotel lobby. “We come here and we support him.”
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