Looks as if it will be business as usual for Washington’s top hotels for next month’s inauguration.
Donald Trump’s victory last month caught more than a few of his supporters by surprise, if hotel reservations are any indication. Instead of the expected calls to secure a luxury suite for the celebrations, operators spent the day after the election staring at silent phones as Trump voters scrambled to make plans for a trip to the nation’s capital.
But as they do for every inauguration, the hotels quickly sold out. There are a few top-dollar rooms still to be found, but the vast majority are fully booked, most with four- or five-night minimum stays costing up to $40,000.
“All the signature suites are completely gone,” said Emmie Lancaster, director of communications at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The 397-room hotel still has a few guest rooms available starting at $1,095 a night, and customers will receive inaugural keepsakes — one of the perks expected for anyone staying at a top-tier property that week.
The slight delay in bookings was caused by two factors: Trump’s razor-thin win that kept everybody guessing until almost 3 a.m. on Nov. 9 and hotel policies that require full, nonrefundable payments when inauguration reservations are made.
“Most of the time, people don’t book in advance because of the one-in-a-million chance that their candidate might lose,” Lancaster said.
While Clinton supporters tearfully took their names off hotel waiting lists, Trump donors started gearing up.
One of the first places they called was Washington’s new Trump International Hotel, which sold out its 263 rooms with a five-night minimum. A representative for the hotel declined to discuss when the hotel was booked, how much guests are paying or any other details about inaugural week packages.
Those over-the-top packages, by the way, are mostly promotional stunts. The Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown is still waiting for someone to snap up the $175,000 “experience,” which comes with a suite, six first-class airline tickets, a cocktail party for 50, a $20,000 shopping spree and a full-time butler.
But the luxury hotel had no problem selling out the rest of its 86 rooms, which range from $5,596 to $40,000 for four nights. The 300 rooms at its sister property on 22nd Street NW are almost gone, at the same prices. (Guests will receive a custom tote with items to keep them cozy in the cold weather, initialed pillowcases, coffee mugs and Melania Trump’s favorite star-shaped cookies.)
Those rates are comparable to other A-list hotels in Washington. The Hay-Adams, overlooking the White House, booked all 145 rooms right after the election; prices range from $4,796 to $39,996 for four nights. The 95-room Jefferson is sold out, with a four-night stay starting at $4,122; the Four Seasons is likewise booked starting at $7,500. The Willard InterContinental and the St. Regis are also sold out, but declined to disclose their rates.
The Watergate and MGM National Harbor, both new to Washington’s premium market, still have space for inaugural visitors. The 336-room Watergate starts at $1,030 for two nights; the MGM’s inauguration price begins at $1,598 for two nights. (The best suites, alas, are reserved for high-end casino customers.) There’s no special transportation to downtown, though, which leaves inauguration visitors at the mercy of Uber’s inevitable surge pricing that week.
None of the hotels know (or will discuss) how many of their guests are coming to Washington for official inauguration events — or some of the well-publicized protests scheduled to take place during the three-day celebration.
The best guess, hospitality experts say, is that the vast majority of people paying thousands to stay in the District for four nights will be here in some official capacity. Anecdotal evidence suggests that marchers are booking hotels for one or two nights, although many are crashing at local homes with friends.
One big winner: Airbnb, which is getting thousands of new customers, regardless of political affiliation. This is the third inauguration since the company was founded, and it released a report last month projecting that 10,000 people — seven times more than in 2013 — will book more than 6,000 listings that week, paying an average of $125 per night. Most of those are in neighborhoods close to downtown; 75 percent are private residences.
“Some owners have an extra bedroom,” said Airbnb’s Christopher Nulty. “And some say, ‘I want to get out of town.’ ” They may not have voted for Trump, but that doesn’t mean they can’t cash in.