Virtuoso, the world’s largest luxury travel network, whose motto is “the best of the best,” has quietly removed all 10 Trump-branded hotels and resorts from its list of preferred partners. Pages on Virtuoso’s website that once showcased Trump properties now lead to 404 “page not found” errors.
A spokesperson for Virtuoso confirmed that Trump Hotels ceased being a preferred partner earlier this month, but declined to elaborate. “As a rule, we don’t talk about why we engage in non-renewals with partners,” said Misty Belles, managing director of global public relations for the company. “And we don’t talk about why they exit just as a courtesy for them and everyone involved.”
Regardless of how Trump Hotels left Virtuoso, the departure could hurt Trump’s hotel management and licensing business, which Forbes reported to be down $24 million since 2019, as well as his golf resorts in Miami and Europe, which are down another $120 million.
For five-star luxury hotels, there’s arguably no more prestigious network affiliation than Virtuoso, which is designed as a win-win-win for moneyed travelers, high-achieving travel advisors and elite suppliers alike.
One of the ways Virtuoso stands out is its careful vetting system, which lends an air of exclusivity to all parties in the network. “Everything we do is invitation-only,” says Belles.
On one side of the business are over 20,000 luxury travel advisors, hand-picked for their ability to drive sales and deliver exceptional customer service. On the other side are Virtuoso’s 2,000 preferred travel partners — including over 1,400 hotels and resorts — that are evaluated annually to ensure they continue to deliver crème-de-la-crème experiences.
Virtuoso-affiliated travel advisors are able to give their clients access to a bevy of complimentary VIP perks, which can range from very nice bonuses — room upgrades, hotel credits, airport transfers or late checkout — to unique-to-the-property signature experiences like spa treatments, gourmet dinners or horse-drawn carriage rides — extras that would normally add up to $500 in value per stay, said Belles.
For preferred-partner hotels, Virtuoso is a valuable feeder of well-heeled guests. A recent YouGov survey revealed that the average annual household income of the typical Virtuoso traveler is over $300,000. “But Virtuoso isn’t intended strictly for the affluent,” says Belles. “It’s for anybody who really prizes travel as important to them.”
Interestingly, two hotels with ties to Trump remain in Virtuoso’s catalogue. Donald Trump never owned the David Rockwell-designed Trump SoHo, a 391-room condo-hotel at the corner of Spring and Varick streets in New York City. But he licensed his name and Trump International Hotels managed the property, which was plagued with troubled financing, construction delays, a fraud lawsuit and a swift decline in business following the 2016 presidential election. After the hotel dropped its Trump affiliation in 2017, it emerged with a new identity as The Dominick and became an in-demand destination in lower Manhattan.
There’s a similar backstory for Trump’s ill-fated Toronto project. Donald Trump repeatedly told the world he had invested his own money in the 65-story Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto, only later to admit that it was a licensing deal. Lawsuits from actual investors bankrupted the hotel’s developer, and the new owner promptly removed Trump’s name and made significant renovations. The reincarnated hotel is now the luxurious St. Regis Toronto, part of the Marriott portfolio.
Trump Hotels may have lost preferred-partner status for any number of reasons. Virtuoso evaluates hotels based on a number of factors, including feedback from both travel advisors and clients, according to Belles.
Within a week of returning from a trip, clients receive an invitation to rate and review their experiences. “And we monitor that very, very closely,” said Belles. “If somebody leaves a review and it’s less than stellar, that allows us to go in and evaluate what’s going on.”
Every year, there’s another evaluation and another contract, said Belles. “So it’s not a situation where once you’re in, you’re in for life.”
Trump Hotels did not respond to a request for comment.