Tourism & Cruises

Trump says he earned $76M from ‘severely under-performing’ Doral resort in 2018

President Donald Trump reported income from his 643-room Doral resort and golf club rose slightly in 2018 — despite a request that the county lower its taxable value.

In a disclosure form filed Thursday with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, Trump reported income of $76 million from the Trump National Doral property in 2018, up just slightly from $75 million in 2017. The new income information reflects a decrease from 2016, when Trump reported $116 million in income from Trump Doral. The disclosure forms are very limited and do not show profits or losses of the president’s 100-plus businesses.

While the required disclosure for a federal official offers few details, the line for the property branded as the Trump National Doral Miami has offered an intriguing scorecard for the fortunes of a trophy property of the president. Trump, a regular golfer, bought the home of the famed Blue Monster course out of bankruptcy in 2012. The resort recently disclosed a business downturn in appealing its property-tax bill with Miami-Dade County. A hotel consultant told the county that issues with the Trump brand hurt sales.

Past disclosure forms from 2017 and 2018 showed the president’s income at less than in 2016 from the Doral property. Thursday’s filing showing an unchanged income figure could be evidence of stabilization at the resort, or reflect some internal compensation formula that’s insulated from the ups-and-downs of business at one of Miami-Dade’s largest hotels.

Thursday’s report comes just months after the Trump Organization’s consultant made the case to the Miami-Dade value adjustment board in December that the Doral hotel was losing to local competitors.

“There’s clearly been factors that have influenced the hotel,” Miami consultant Jessica Vachiratevanurak told a magistrate. “There is some negative connotation that is associated with the brand.” The comments were first reported by the Washington Post.

On an average night in 2017, the Trump Doral hit an occupancy rate of only 53 percent at $200 a night, compared to about 70 percent of competitors’ rooms for $250 a night, Vachiratevanurak told the board.

“Relative to this competitive set,” Vachiratevanurak said, “they are severely under-performing.”

Trump’s other large South Florida hotel, the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, earned the president $22.7 million in 2018, a drop of 10 percent from 2017.

Business at Mar-a-Lago — traditionally a major destination for high-society galas and charity fundraisers — plummeted after Trump said in mid-2017 that there were “very fine people on both sides” of a deadly white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Major charities including longtime Mar-a-Lago customers like the American Cancer Society and Cleveland Clinic canceled planned events at the unofficial winter White House. In previous years, the club had hosted roughly 30 annually, according to a Herald analysis of the Palm Beach Daily News’ social events calendar. The number dropped to 10 events in the season after Charlottesville.

With Mar-a-Lago’s calendar looking bare, newcomers sensed an opportunity to schedule their own, lower-profile events at the club. Among them: Li “Cindy” Yang, the South Florida massage-parlor entrepreneur who ran a business that sold Chinese business executives access to Trump and his family at the club. The events allowed Yang and her clients entry to Trump’s estate. But the club’s lax security practices were exposed when a Chinese woman planning to attend an event promoted by Yang was arrested carrying an unusual trove of electronics. The incident led to questions about whether the president’s business interests could interfere with national security.

Miami Herald reporter Nicholas Nehamas contributed to this report.

Related stories from Miami Herald

Taylor Dolven covers the tourism industry at the Miami Herald, where she aims to tell stories about the people who work in tourism and the people who enjoy it. Previously, she worked at Vice News in Brooklyn, NY, where she won a Front Page Award from the Newswomen’s Club of NY for a national investigation of police shootings.
Doug Hanks covers Miami-Dade government for the Herald. He’s worked at the paper for nearly 20 years, covering real estate, tourism and the economy before joining the Metro desk in 2014.
Support my work with a digital subscription