There was nothing terribly festive about the mood in Vancouver’s Trump International Hotel & Tower on the day of its official grand opening. Early in the morning on Feb. 28, dark-suited men and women from four agencies — the RCMP, the Vancouver Police, the U.S. Secret Service and GuardTeck Security Co. — prowled the champagne lounge and other public spaces, passing watchful eyes over everyone entering the gleaming $360-million twisting tower. They, like the approximately 200 protesters gathering in the rain on West Georgia Street, anticipated some important guests: the Trump scions, Donald Jr. and Eric, with their wives and sister, Tiffany Trump.
When they appeared before the media and guests in the grand ballroom, the male Trumps perched on tall chairs — backs ramrod straight, chests outthrust, faces tensed into smiles — and, along with the young developer, Joo Kim Tiah, gave crisp, self-congratulatory speeches about taking hotel service in the city “to the next level.”
Heroic service does seem to be the hill on which the newest Trump-branded hotel hopes to plant its golden ag. Asked in an interview to identify the hotel’s signature, demonstrably “Trumpish” attributes, general manager Philipp Posch ignored the muted, masculine decor. He didn’t mention the gold-bar-shaped TRUMP chocolate bars, the computerized control pads or the wraparound terraces and Victoria & Albert soaker tubs. He didn’t cite the sparkling blue, chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce (licence plate: TRUMP) available to guests and residents for outings.
In fact, Posch made it clear that there was nothing particularly notable about the hotel’s amenities: “The Four Seasons, Mandarin, Ritz-Carlton, Hyatt Regency, Fairmont, Shangri-La — we’re all similar square footage size,” he said. “Similar nice beds. Twenty-four-hour room service.” These, he suggested, along with “beautiful mirrors,” “some marble” and lobby bell- men and doormen were elements of every five-star hotel. So it was service, said Posch, that would set them apart.
The Vancouver hotel had been unofficially open for only four weeks, so Posch’s examples of extraordinary efforts made to please big-spending guests — ceiling projections of the Batman signal in a lucky child’s room, a country-music star’s spare guitar, signed and waiting for his biggest fan — were necessarily cribbed from his seven years working at the Chicago Trump hotel. But he was certain his new staff would rise to similar heights.
Perhaps the Vancouver staff was feeling the pressure of these expectations. Or maybe the anxiety of the grand opening, mixed with lingering echoes of the “Love trumps hate!” chants from protesters, put the service crew off its game. Over the course of a four-night stay that was part of a media-familiarization tour of the hotel, there were times when the happy, efficient facade displayed by lobby staff seemed to sway on a wobbly foundation, a bit like the computers sitting unsteadily on not-quite-hidden cardboard boxes at the otherwise sleek black granite front desk.
At 8:19 one morning, for example, a maid rang the doorbell of a sleeping guest, waking him to ask when he would like housekeeping service. Told 2 p.m., she arrived unexpectedly before noon, then blamed the fact that the guest hadn’t lit the control panel’s “Do Not Disturb” light. The next evening, the regular turndown service never occurred. When a different maid finally arrived at 9:30 p.m., in a fluster, after the guest had called housekeeping, she blamed the “Do Not Disturb” light the guest had activated for twenty minutes after dinner.
Still, most of the staff at Vancouver’s Trump Hotel seemed to be reaching hard for that next level in service, wherever it was. No doubt when it’s finally located, it won’t be the guest’s fault when things go awry. An average nightly tariff of roughly $500 per room surely buys that much.