Just before Christmas 2017, the five-diamond Trump Soho became The Dominick Hotel.
With 2017 average room rates and bookings declining, staff morale down, and celebrity guests (like basketball star LeBron James) avoiding the AAA five-diamond, 391-room hotel, owner CIM Group had discontinued their management contract with Trump International Hotels Management in November.
A few weeks later, as the Dominick name was raised on the hotel’s façade, the property also joined Preferred Hotels & Resorts as one of only three New York City Legend Collection hotels. (The Baccarat Hotel New York and The Mark are the other two.)
Two months later, CIM, which has owned the hotel since 2014, hired General Manager Dant Hirsch, widely known and respected in the luxury lodging world. Prior to being recruited, Hirsch was a regional manager with COMO Hotels & Resorts, where he oversaw the Americas for COMO’s Turks & Caicos and Miami properties.
Joining Hirsch was another local lodging figure, Sharon Telesca Feurer, who helped open the Trump Soho in 2008, but left in 2011 to work at the Peninsula New York. Hirsch also began reaching out to key travel agency executives at companies like Valerie Wilson Travel and Smartflyer.
“I wanted to give them my personal assurance that we were going to maintain the luxury their clients came to expect, and that we would be investing in making it even better,” Hirsch said.
The owners also agreed to put more capital back in the 10-year-old property, upgrading furniture, guest amenities, and changing out the carpets. “We came out with the message that this is an exciting next chapter for the hotel,” Hirsch said.
Hirsch reached out to the property’s best customers. “Our most loyal guests, the ones who have been staying here every week for years, have continued to so. They’re happy to see the improvements, the increase in staff morale, service,” he said.
According to Hirsch, annual room revenues at the hotel, which features a seasonal seventh-floor outdoor pool, patio and Bar d’Eau lounge, are expected to be up at least 30 percent this year versus 2017, and he believes the travel trade has contributed to the rebound.
“Bringing in Dant, and Sharon with her credibility from her days with Peninsula Hotels, was huge,” said Dan Beschloss, executive director industry relations, at Valerie Wilson Travel, New York City.
Michael Holtz, owner of SmartFlyer, a Virtuoso agency, has been very happy with the changes he has seen the last six months. “The rebranding of The Dominick in Soho, led by two seasoned hoteliers, is giving new life to this well-located hotel,” Holtz said.
“When you have skilled, likable professionals, with a great product, and SmartFlyer advisors clamoring for that location, we collectively build big business at a rapid pace.”
But the transition isn’t complete. For instance, when you search for the hotel on Google, the top response is the hotel’s homepage, titled: “Trump SoHo is now The Dominick | New Brand. Same Sophistication.”
Gradually leaving the other brand behind allows the hotel to take greater advantage of incorporating the surrounding Soho neighborhood. Hirsch, who lives a 90-second walk from the Dominick, told a story about how his wife recently stopped in front of a local merchant’s window, while walking the family’s dogs.
“Someone came up to her and said, ‘Would you like me to hold your dogs for you so you can go in?’ It’s amazing to see how tight-knit people are in this neighborhood. We want to tap into that for our guests,” Hirsch said.
Hirsch believes that extending the hotel’s guest experience out into Soho, and bringing the neighborhood into the hotel, holds great potential for the property to attract clients.
For example, the hotel is looking at installing a coffee shop/outdoor seating area in the plaza/alleyway behind the hotel. “We have a couple of things in the works,” he said cagily. “One of our new branding mantras is that we offer uptown elegance with a downtown vibe.”
Valerie Wilson’s Beschloss cheered Hirsch’s vision. “The hotel definitely has a client base that wants to be in Soho. You’re not going to get the person staying at the Pierre, off Central Park, to switch to the Dominick,” he said.
He said Valerie Wilson agents recommend the property especially for return visitors who have been to New York City’s more popular tourism venues. “First time travelers to New York want to stay between 34th and 60th streets,” he said. “But once you’ve done the Central Park carriage rides, visited the museums, you’re looking for something fun and different, quintessential New York. That’s when you offer the Dominick.”