Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver may as well be located in a Chinese “ghost city.” For all its gleaming newness,i impeccable customer service, and undeniable quality of marketing befitting The Man Himself, at least on the eve of the recent mid-terms, it was as quiet and seemingly underused as a centrally-planned eyesore in middle Mongolia.
Why so unpopular ?
Well, at least in theory, Vancouver / Cascadian culture is about as diametrically opposed to Trumpism as Rocky & Bullwinkle are to Boris & Natasha. The resentment is surely mutual – with each seeing themselves as the noble skvirrel and moose – but the conflict isn’t exactly doing wonders for the buzz inside this 63-storey tribute to
capitalism free markets.ii But maybe we’re not looking hard enough.
We’ve seen the wildly optimistic and rather compelling stories that Vancouver has to share previously on these pages,iii so let’s give The Doo his due and take a peak behind the curtain of his newest property on West Georgia Street.iv
As a guest at the hotel for two nights, I ran into only one other non-staff-member in any of the common areas during my 48 hours there, meaning that for the rest of the trip I had two doormen and two front of house staff at my sole beck and call. Talk about spoiled! Up in the bar (aka “champagne lounge”) the story was very much the same — there were never more than three other people in the 100-seat space the entire evening. The on-site Chinese restaurant seemed to have a little more liveliness one evening, but the next it was as quiet as everywhere else in the palace.
Not that it was unpleasant for it! The ratio of staff-to-guest certainly helped, with the demeanour of the staff being overjoyedly helpful, even obsequious. Is this how Big Trumpy likes it ? With slave boys and slave girls on hands-and-knees ? Undoubtedly, but it won’t be to every jetsetter‘s taste, though it did seem to play well with the Chinese and Texansv who can financially and intellectually afford to actually buy or stay here.vi Certainly it helps that the staff are plenty convincing, always heartfelt and endlessly deferential in their interactions, which can’t help but imbue one with a sense of princeliness (or princessliness) befitting a hotel experience costing multiples more. To this point, oddly enough, Trump Hotel Vancouver was one of the cheapest places to stay downtown. But maybe it wasn’t that odd when you factor in how little Canadians generally care for Herr Hair ? That the rest of the world’s less sensitive and more reflective tourists aren’t gravitating to this deal is a bit mystifying, however.
And yet the prices of condo units at Trump Vancouver tell another story altogether. There are currently fewer listings at higher prices than what you’ll find at the much ballyhooed (if justifiably so) Vancouver House by BIG, and the quiet back alley entrance wasn’t lacking for Ferrari 488 Spyders and Cayenne Turbos at the valet stand after dark. Clearly, those looking to set up shop here on a somewhat more permanent basis are happy to buy into the Trump brand and pay for the priviledge.
And what a brand it is. If you think that most luxury hotels brand themselves well, you should see all the little touches that Trump trots out. To wit, let’s take a look at a few examples of TRUMP branding throughout my hotel suite to help paint this ruthlessly effective, quintessentially American, and indeed egomaniacal picture :
Some of these little branding exercises come standard in higher-end hotels, but some, like the slice of (tree) life, the bullion-brick-shaped chocolate bars, and especially the man-sized lettering out front, were pretty next level, even if the spa sandals were too small for my size 12s. What many other hotel chains also do is “diversify” their branding to incorporate other widely recognised brands, particularly for bath and cosmetic products, but not Trump! It’s TRUMPTRUMPTRUMP everywhere you look.
Not that any of these details make you, the guest, feel particularly smart,vii but the company (Trumpany?) certainly looks smart for the effort. So this is good marketing! If perhaps not great marketing.viii It’s not quite great enough to feel at home in leftopian Vancouver, but if Trump (and Trump Vancouver) is far from perfect, in this endeavour as in any other, he won’t let perfection be the enemy of good. I mean look at him, he’s doing better than average!ix That blue wave ? It was but a trickle, regardless of recounts.
Doing better than average in the Presidency, or in Vancouver, is nothing to sneeze at either.x These domains aren’t exactly on the curve. So maybe Trump Vancouver is just another of his quiet successes.
Wouldn’t that be ironic.
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- Trump Vancouver just opened in early 2017 amidst, unsurprisingly, some hypocritical brouhaha (the comments are gold). [↩]
- Per Taleb :
@TalebKabbara : We all fight the system until we find a younger rebel do it, then we start writing books, make money, and become capitalists.
@nntaleb : Not necessarily. This corruption/inner contradiction/hypocrisy is proper to socialists, not to libertarians. 2- “capitalism” is a misspecified term; shd be “free-markets” or “classic liberalism” as Capital plays no role in modern technological wealth formation.
- Eg. BIG’s Vancouver House: The last pied-à-terre you’ll ever need and #fightforbeauty, don’t #slack . [↩]
- Trump Vancouver is located right across the street from Westbank’s Shangri-La Hotel but only the former’s restaurant, bar, and upper-floor private residences are accessed from West Georgia. The hotel and valet are accessed from the back alley to the north. Don’t worry, this is a Vancouver back alley, which means that it’s pristine and entirely odour-free. You could eat off the road. [↩]
- Or Albertans… there’s not much difference really! And Albertans certainly buy property here. It’s not all Chinese “money-launderers” in Vancouver, y’know. As Ng Weng Hoong thoughtfully points out in her diatribe against the political thievery and systematic racism running rampant in British Columbia :
Let’s be clear: this [foreign buyer's tax] tax was born out of resentment and anger. It culminated a rising political tide that blamed foreign buyers for Metro Vancouver’s housing problems. The influential group of journalists and academics who sold this storyline to the world has downplayed, even ignored, a host of other factors for the region’s runaway housing prices—supply constraints by incompetent government at all levels, restrictive regulations on construction, surging domestic demand from within Canada, B.C.’s strong economy, the intergenerational transfer of wealth, the lending practices of Canada’s banks and secondary mortgage lenders, the prolonged low interest rate environment, et cetera.
- I didn’t mind the near-grovelling but nor did I necessarily prefer it over the calmer and more reassured customer service experience at, say, Fairmont hotels. [↩]
Good marketing makes the company look smart.
Great marketing makes the customer feel smart.
~Joe Chernov [↩]
- If you’re looking for an example of great marketing that makes the customer/client/guest feel smart, look no further than Ian Gillespie’s Westbank. We’ve already seen #fightforbeauty (footnote iii) and #unzipped, but the next level up from that is #unwritten for their upcoming billion-dollar Oakridge Centre development, which is set to become the largest single development in the city’s history, and for which the pop-up exhibition just opened on November 3rd.
The “#unwritten” link above shares but a few snapshots that are the closest I can come to conveying the impressiveness and staggering completeness of the proposal. From the custom Fazioli pianos in the lobbies to the supercar display rooms to the Nike-designed running loop to the 1600 on-site freshwater wells to the flexible furniture in the “sanctuary” balcony pods to the freely available electric car fleet to the valet service to the on-site beer brewing to the wealth of restaurants and shops, the list just goes on and on! It’s pretty nuts.
Not that Westbank’s google reviews (averaging 2.5/5 stars) are any indication of their unbridled commercial and cultural success, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time and good golly are they pleasing the people that matter. [↩]
“over the past 21 midterm elections, the President’s party has lost an average 30 seats in the House, and an average 4 seats in the Senate” NY Times sez it’s R – 26 in House and + 2-5 in Senate. Yet they call it “A rebuke to Trump”. That’s kind of just wishful thinking.
- Trump’s supporters are obviously more reserved than the cat-calling progressivistas. You needn’t look farther than the continual butt pumping of Nate Silver’s “predictions,” first in 2016 and now again in 2018, for proof that the silent majority is firmly with this roguish CiC. [↩]