Politics and retail usually mix like oil and water. Look no further than the situation Target seems to have embroiled itself in by making a simple announcement on its in-store bathroom policy. Such a vitriolic reaction to an innocuous issue might make a casual observer think that Donald Trump's extended stay in the media spotlight should at least have some discernible effect on his business prospects.
According to new data, it most certainly is.
Hipmunk released data last week that showed bookings to Trump Hotels have suffered a marked decline ever since their namesake's political campaign has been an issue in the national consciousness. Regardless of anyone's political leanings, it's clear that the market does not agree with the Donald. Bookings at lodgings under the Trump banner have fallen an average of 59.3 percent from 2015 Q1 to 2016 Q1. Two properties, the Trump Soho New York and Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, posted declines into the 70-percent mark.
Hipmunk admitted that because its user base skews young and millennial, these numbers might draw something of a more dramatic picture than actually exists, but an average annual decline of nearly two out of every three bookings is a clear enough signal that something is going on. Some might say it's the natural comeuppance of running a campaign more interested in picking fights than building bridges, but others could arguably contest that it's nothing but a bit of consumer activism that's hurting the Trump Hotel brand - once the election settles, maybe things could go back to normal.
Ironically, what's bad business for Trump Hotels might be great business for Airbnb, the non-hotel equivalent that's seen its fair share of political mudslinging hamper its aggressive growth. Airbnb has been locked in a highly publicized battle with San Francisco city regulators almost since its inception, but the sharing economy's answer to hotels has taken a honey-over-vinegar approach to public policy influence lately, including $230,000 in campaign donations to various city efforts in San Francisco.
“This is one part of our growing effort to stand with those who fight for the middle class in San Francisco," an Airbnb spokesperson told Recode.
Sure it is, but no city government is going to look a $230,000 gift horse in the mouth.
Trump Hotels and Airbnb might not see each other as rivals in any meaningful sense, but the approaches that each brand takes to public relations do tell drastically different stories. At a time when hotels seem to be increasing their customer service cred however they can, Trump Hotels instead have to hope for the best as the daily news stories on their titular owner break. On the other hand, Airbnb is doing what it can, though it can be argued that a light touch is best when donating to city governments, as really opening the purse strings smacks more of corruption than benign generosity.
To say that Airbnb is more adept than Trump Hotels at navigating the current retail landscape is low-hanging fruit, but the point is most relevant when looking at Airbnb listings for the Republican National Convention scheduled to be held in Cleveland in mid-July. On average, a night in an average area bed will run about $1,000 per night, with listings reaching somewhere into the $10,000-range for the biggest spenders (re: donors) that descend upon northern Ohio this summer.
For comparison's sake, the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia shows Airbnb listings in the slightly more affordable $300 nightly range.
It is nominally impossible to say whether that, too, is a reflection of the wider market's view on the politics of the Trump brand, but it is logically inconsistent to deny any connection whatsoever.