May 21, 2020
President Trump is planning to reprise his notorious Fourth of July celebration this year in Washington DC, and it’s not just the “Salute to America” rally that’s coming back, but also the corresponding spike in room rates at his nearby hotel.
Last year, Trump raised eyebrows by using government resources to stage a rally on the National Mall for the Fourth of July, complete with tanks and fireworks. While the event put a strain on the DC government, which still hasn’t been paid back for the expenses it incurred, at least from the perspective of Trump’s personal business, the event appears to have been a success. CREW reported at the time that the Trump International Hotel, just a few blocks from the National Mall, raised room rates to an unusually high $1,166, and only allowed guests to book if they were booking at least three nights. The hotel called it the “Independence Day special,” and noted “high level of activities in the city over this special holiday.”
Despite the public health concerns raised by hosting a huge public gathering in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has made it clear that he plans to charge ahead with another big party in the nation’s capital this summer. During a coronavirus task force briefing in April, Trump shrugged off the risk of having the event, saying, “On July 4, we’ll be doing what we had at the Mall… We’re going to be doing it. Last year was a tremendous success.” He said that attendees of the event would “leave a little extra distance” and stay six feet apart.
But it looks like he’s banking on another big celebration: at his hotel, where room rates are double their typical daily cost over Fourth of July weekend. We shouldn’t have to question whether Trump is pushing ahead with the event despite the health risks in order to sell hotel rooms at a spiked rate.
This is all the more notable because it is the first spike in rates that we have seen since the spread of coronavirus in the United States shut down businesses across the country. The lack of travel and tourism put a serious pinch on the Trump Organization, with some estimating that the business was losing $1 million per day during the shutdown. Eric Trump even asked the General Services Administration for rent relief from the Trump Organization’s lease for the Trump Hotel in DC. As of this writing, the Washington DC stay-at-home order extends through June 8, but evidently the president and his business are betting on the order lifting before Independence Day.
The hotel’s least expensive rooms typically cost between three and four hundred dollars per night. That’s the cost to book this Friday, and it’s what they cost to book the week after July 4th. The cost of the same type of room, however, is $795 to book for Fourth of July weekend–double the normal rate. Not only that, but you have to book at least three nights from July 2nd to July 5th. That means that to stay at Trump’s hotel that weekend, you will have to pay the president’s business at least $2,385.
The hotel’s higher-tiered rooms are also more expensive than usual around July 4th, and they also have to be booked for at least three nights. The second cheapest type of room in the hotel, the so-called “premier” rooms, typically cost between four and five hundred dollars a night. They are on sale for more than eight hundred dollars a night for the July 4th weekend. The hotel’s least expensive suite costs around $1500 per night, up from around $1000, and its “signature suites,” which are its most expensive rooms, are all several hundred dollars more expensive than usual. Zach Everson’s 1100 Pennsylvania newsletter was the first to note the jump in prices last night as this post was being prepared for publication. Everson reports a lower rate of $636 per night, which appears to be the rate for Trump Card Members, where CREW based its numbers on non-discounted rates.
At this point, it has become routine for rates to spike around events that Trump is involved with at or near his hotel. On November 7, during a “Save the Senate” fundraiser where President Trump and at least eight Senators made an appearance, rates for basic rooms were $1,345. In December, another fundraiser with appearances by Trump, Vice President Pence and other officials apparently caused most of the hotel to sell out, and the lowest rate to spike to $6,719. But just because these spikes happen frequently, doesn’t make them any less corrupt. Donors and political supporters paying a premium to the president’s business to socialize with or influence powerful government officials is corruption in the light of day–and the hotel website can tell us at least part of the price they paid for access.
President Trump never seems to miss an opportunity to grandstand, or to cash in. It looks like this Fourth of July, he is determined to do both, whether or not a pandemic continues to threaten the country.