One Hotel, but Two Competing Websites (and a Single Mention of Trump)
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Travelers trying to book a stay at the Trump International Hotel & Tower Panama on Thursday found no rooms available on TrumpHotels.com.
But the website for the Bahia Grand Panama had several luxurious options, at the very same oceanfront hotel.
The dueling websites — and their conflicting occupancy information — are the latest twist in the oft-bizarre battle between President Trump’s family business and the majority owner of the Panama City property, who has spent months trying to oust the Trumps as both the managers and the branders of the hotel.
On Monday, the majority owner, Orestes Fintiklis, declared victory and a worker pried the silver T-R-U-M-P name from the property, even as the Trump Organization described the move as legally improper and disputed that it had permanently lost control.
By Thursday, a statement was released that said the hotel had a new name, Bahia Grand Panama; a new website; and even new social media accounts. The statement, sent from “Public Relations,” declared, “As of today, the former Trump International Hotel & Tower Panama is no longer managed by or affiliated with Trump brand.”
Don’t tell that to the Trumps, who continue to make their case in various legal venues.
In a statement, the Trump Organization’s chief legal officer, Alan Garten, noted that the management contract “mandates that all disputes be resolved through binding arbitration” and that “Trump Hotels has filed a $50 million lawsuit against Mr. Fintiklis.”
Mr. Fintiklis’s actions on Thursday, Mr. Garten said, “constitute an abuse of process and represent another attempt by him to misuse the Panamanian courts in an effort to circumvent arbitration.”
“We look forward to litigating this matter in the forum agreed upon by the parties where we are confident we will prevail,” Mr. Garten said.
Amid the legal wrangling, the Trump Organization’s website and social media for the property continued to exist, with no sign of the struggle.
But when a reporter tried to book a room, the Trump website — replete with information on accommodations, dining options and the health club — responded as if the hotel was filled: “We apologize. There are no available rooms for your requested stay. Please check your dates and try again.”
Over at thebahiagrand.com, a message greeted guests: “Welcome to the Bahia Grand Panama, the only luxury hotel directly on the open waters of the majestic gulf of Panama City — with one exciting change — we’re under new management.”
Even though the name was not unveiled until Thursday, the hotel owners seemed to have had it picked out for more than a month. The new website was registered on Jan. 30, according to records from the cyberforensics company DomainTools.
The bare-bones website does not detail where guests can eat or drink on the property. But one thing is clear: The “book now” tab shows availability.
In fact, the fight between the Trumps and Mr. Fintiklis has centered on the hotel’s occupancy rates.
Mr. Fintiklis has claimed that profit has plummeted as the hotel sat “virtually empty.”
The Trump Organization disputes that claim and argues that the hotel “continues to outperform the market by a wide margin” as the broader Panamanian hotel business has struggled.
The dispute exploded last month when Mr. Fintiklis appeared at the hotel with an entourage and sought to fire several Trump-employed staff members. The Trump employees stood their ground.
Then, on Monday, Mr. Fintiklis arrived with a contingent of court officials and police officers — and a Panamanian court order authorizing a change of administration.
He declared victory. The Trumps pushed back.
The Panamanian court order, the Trumps argued, merely authorized “the appointment of a temporary, third party administrator to oversee the management of the property while the underlying dispute is being litigated.”
That nuance did not prevent Mr. Fintiklis, a Cypriot citizen, from heading to the baby grand piano in the lobby to play and sing “Accordeon,” a popular Greek song about the fight against fascism.
The piano is not featured on either website.