Donald Trump regularly touts his business success as a rationale for his campaign. In the first presidential debate, he got specific, speaking of the recent opening of the new Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington. “Under budget, ahead of schedule, saved tremendous money. I'm a year ahead of schedule. And that's what this country should be doing.”
Yet the opening hasn’t been perhaps as rosy as Trump described. Earlier this year, celebrity chefs José Andrés and Geoffrey Zakarian reversed plans to open a restaurant in the hotel after Trump made derogatory remarks about Mexican immigrants. In early October, the hotel’s entrance was spray-painted with “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice No Peace.” And on Thursday, the hotel was surrounded by protesting members of the AFL-CIO, which represents a culinary union attempting to organize employees at the Trump Hotel Las Vegas – all signs that Trump’s political ambitions may be affecting his commercial interests.
On Friday, the location-based app Foursquare released new data supporting that idea. The app, which allows its users to “check in” at locations they visit, shows that foot traffic to Trump-branded casinos, hotels and golf courses continues to be lower than it was before his candidacy, especially in blue states.
Foursquare and its sister app, Swarm, have used their data on the foot traffic of more than 50 million users to investigate how businesses are performing in the past for retailers, hedge funds, real estate developers and others. The company predicted a drop in Chipotle’s sales after a food poisoning scandal, and forecast how many iPhones Apple would sell after the launch of its 6S. The company uses both data from check-ins and from users who allow the app to track their GPS location in the background.
The company released data in August showing that Trump-branded businesses may be suffering as a result of his candidacy. In its newest data, the company shows that foot traffic in blue states like New York, New Jersey and Illinois continues to suffer, though the outlook isn't as bad in states that are more Republican.
A Trump Organization spokesman responded to a request for comment on Friday by saying: "The data that has been reported by sites such as Foursquare is manipulated to appear meaningful, when, in reality, the information is inconsequential and does not provide an accurate representation of our performance. We encourage all businesses to exercise caution in reporting and interpreting these figures."
Foursquare responded by saying that its methodology is sound, and although it doesn't purport to know the exact correlation between the drop in foot traffic and revenue for the specific businesses, its data has a high correlation with similar business metrics across a variety of industries.
For Trump-branded properties, Foursquare's data looks at the "visit share,” which is the number of visits Foursquare recorded to Trump hotels, golf courses and casinos taken as a percentage of the number of visits to other hotels, golf courses and casinos in the same geographic areas. The company did this so that it can distinguish trends in Trump properties from trends that might be affecting the hospitality and entertainment industry more broadly.
Foursquare data shows that the visit share to Trump properties in September 2016 was down 19 percent compared with two years prior, as the graph below shows. In the graph, the blue line shows visits from April 2014 to March 2015, while the pink line shows visit from April 2015 to March 2016. The yellow line shows the most recent visits, from April 2016 to the present, which are well below previous years.
The trend is especially notable in blue states, where foot traffic is even lower. In blue states, visit share was down 21 percent in September 2016 to September 2014.
In “purple” swing states, the trends look more similar to what they were in previous years. Foot traffic in purple states in August was actually a little higher than it has been in past years. As of September 2016, visit share was down 4 percent compared with two years prior, the company said. However, Foursquare notes that most Trump-branded properties are actually in blue states like New York, New Jersey and Illinois, rather than purple states.
In many cases, these hotels, casinos and golf courses are not directly owned by Trump but merely license his name. And the data only represents people who use Foursquare and Swarm, which is a select group. The company says that it has normalized that data against figures from the U.S. census to remove age and gender bias, but that urban dwellers are still somewhat over-represented in their figures. Still, the data suggests that the campaign probably has not been a positive force for Trump-branded businesses.
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