|By Ron Sylvester, Las Vegas
SunMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 02, 2013--Las Vegas' Trump International Hotel had a rocky start.
The high-end condos failed to sell. Owner Donald Trump had to shift strategy. The Great Recession dashed his hope for a second tower, and hundreds of investors sued him.
Five years later, things have improved at the gold-plated tower. The investor lawsuits were dismissed, the condos once again are selling and the hotel rooms are full.
"We've managed to run the building very well through some tough years," said Eric Trump, who oversees tower operations and serves as executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization.
The $1.3 billion Trump opened in March 2008. Even before construction on the 1,282-suite building finished, Las Vegas' luxury condo market began to crash. People who made deposits on the units during the boom no longer could finance them. Investors who had planned to flip them backed out of the deals. Trump's plan to sell the suites didn't pan out.
So Trump changed course and began to market the tower as a hotel, with a particular aim at families and people with pets. It's the same way Trump markets his properties in New York and Chicago. It worked.
"We have no rooms," Jason Demuth, the hotel's marketing manager, said. "We've been sold out almost every weekend and are sold out the next couple of weeks. It's a good problem to have."
Part of the Trump's appeal is its gaming-free operation.
"We have no problem getting a gaming license, but we wanted to do something different here," said Eric Trump, 29, Donald and Ivanna Trump's third child. "We wanted a true luxury resort experience. It's hard to have a high-quality product when you walk into 'ding, ding, ding' and there are people walking around in Hawaiian shirts with big plastic drink mugs."
The Trumps also decided against building a large convention center, opting instead for smaller meeting rooms of 1,000 square feet or less. Rather than compete for the city's biggest events, Trump hosts smaller, private meetings.
Even the tower's condos are starting to sell again. The company has sold about 700 units, including 300 in September as part of a deal with Hilton Grand Vacations, which turned them into timeshares.
Prices also are back to their original levels: $300,000 for a studio, $3.5 million for a penthouse.
"We're back up to over $1,000 per square foot, and we just sold a couple of penthouses," Eric Trump said. "We've now hit the five-year mark, and we're still very passionate about this property and its future."
Customer service is a big focus for the company. A concierge, for instance, keeps track of visitors' preferences and provides guests with the amenities they enjoy -- from private jets to curling irons.
"We try to anticipate their needs," Trump said. "If you have a certain drink you like, we remember that. If we have someone who likes Dr. Pepper, every time he visits us, there's Dr. Pepper in the fridge. We go out to a grocery store and shop for his particular needs. If a guest has got a favorite kind of wine, next time she checks into the hotel, there's a bottle of that wine sitting there waiting. The little personal touches mean everything."
That attention to detail is engrained in the Trump family, whose members are personally involved in the look and feel of each hotel they own.
"We check out every mattress, every pillow and every sheet," Trump said. "We make decisions down to the curtains and literally down to the shape, size and color of the shampoo bottles in the room. When it's your name on the building, you care more than the typical hotel operations."
While the hard work appears to have paid off in Las Vegas, the company hasn't been so lucky in Atlantic City. Donald Trump recently sold his Trump Plaza there for $20 million -- the lowest price ever paid for an Atlantic City casino.
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