Event Review: In conversation with Ivanka Trump at AHIC – The Future of Luxury and the Next Generation of Luxury Traveller.
The Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC), which took place in Dubai last week, featured a Q&A with Ivanka Trump, executive vice president of development & acquisitions at The Trump Organization. The discussion, led by Susan Harmsworth MBE, CEO of ESPA International, focused on luxury within the hospitality industry, and what it means to the next generation of millennial travellers.
Harmsworth began by asking what luxury means to Trump, and what her thoughts were about future generations and whether their expectations of luxury are different.
Trump responded by emphasising that luxury had become a commoditised term. “Everyone says that they do luxury, even when in some cases they don’t. Real luxury is about quality and putting it at the forefront of all decisions, with a thought process of timelines. Something which will endure…something that will hold out over time.”
She elaborated by saying that what separates the good from the great is meticulous attention to detail. “On the development side, it is always obvious to see when a project has been built by a passive owner – by someone who was not actively engaged. One of the core strengths of the Trump brand is that it really gets involved and cares about every single element that goes into making a project a success,” said Trump.
Trump also stated that luxury is dynamic and is always evolving. A fundamental necessity is that in addition to quality the location needs to be right, espeically in the real estate world. “One can build the most luxurious product, but if it is in the wrong location, it’s not going to be perceived to the end user as a luxurious experience. Location is the cornerstone of the Trump brand, with all of its properties located in the most desirable addresses. The upcoming Trump International Hotel, being developed in Washington DC.’s iconic Old Post Office building, is a prime example.”
Trump, however, did add a caveat about how luxury could be perceived differently across different generation groups, particularly millennials, with their large numbers and high spending power. Being a millennial herself, Trump is strongly aware that it is a generation that thrives on experiences and the personal touch. Millennials are “always looking for that perfect ‘Instagrammable’ moment to share with our friends, so tangible personalisation is fundamental for the luxury space” she added.
When asked whether luxury was still a relevant term? Trump reiterated that “real luxury remains truly relevant and it is about being uncompromisable in terms of service” .
Harmsworth then asked about the service expectations of the Trump brand. Trump emphasised the importance of never bing complacent. “Speaking on behalf of Trump empire, complacency just doesn’t fit within its genetic code. You always need to challenge your assumptions, ask yourself why things are done in a certain way, how you can do it better and go a step further,” said Trump.
Having strong and competent leadership on a property level was also paramount, especially as a company scales up, said Trump. “The risk of disconnect as an organisation gets bigger can often occur. Therefore, strong leadership over and beyond the operational level is required in order to create the culture and set the tone. Trump mentioned that she, her father and brothers continuously visit their properties – not just for the purpose of the guests, but for the staff too. “If you are not there minding the ship, problems will inevitably happen and execution will be poor,” said Trump.
When asked about possible differences in expanding the Trump brand in the GCC compared with other regions, Trump said it was important to be sensitive to cultural differences anywhere you go. “This is what’s great about what’s happened within the last decade in the hospitality world. Now there is this real appreciation of cultural context, which didn’t exist 20 years ago.” Trump added that all of the company’s properties are built around cultural context because it “helps to puts things in a box and to deliver a design that is in context”. She added that the Trump Organization has a development pipeline totalling over $2 billion. It builds everything itself and don’t work with partners. This means that when dealing with third parties, they can join in with the dialogue and not be restrained creatively.