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Praise and scorn greet Vancouver’s Trump tower debut

Donald Trump Jr. and brother Eric Trump attend a ceremony for the official opening of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver on Tuesday.

Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

The Trump condo-hotel tower in Vancouver has opened to praise from Donald Trump's family and scorn from protesters opposed to the U.S. President, while the Malaysian developers look to capitalize on a tourism boom.

Joo Kim Tiah, chief executive officer of Malaysia-based TA Global Berhad, said he is proud of the tower that TA Global jointly developed with Vancouver-based Holborn Group.

"I set out to create an icon in the sky, a local champion that will solidify Vancouver as an international gateway city and come to represent the best that Vancouver has to offer the world," Mr. Tiah said Tuesday during the grand opening of the Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver.

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Mr. Trump recently handed over control of the Trump Organization – whose worldwide portfolio includes managing the hotel portion of the 63-storey Vancouver building – to two of his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric.

Attending the opening ceremonies were Mr. Tiah's parents, Tony and Alicia, who co-founded TA Global and are among the wealthiest people in Malaysia.

"Thank you very much also for your great tutelage of your son. I think he's made you proud. Coming from someone that has some experience with generational family businesses, I know it's not always so easy," Donald Trump Jr. told Mr. Tiah's parents.

Turning to the media in the ballroom, Donald Trump Jr. added with a smile: "I'd like to thank the press. Just kidding."

Donald Trump Jr.'s wife, Vanessa, and his brother Eric's wife, Lara, also attended the event. The U.S. President's oldest daughter, Ivanka, did not make it, but his youngest daughter, Tiffany, was in the audience.

All 214 Vancouver condo units that were marketed sold out by early 2016. Three luxury penthouse condo units have not yet been listed for sale.

Meanwhile, a protest outside the tower peaked with about 300 participants as RCMP officers made efforts to contain them on the sidewalk. Mara Hansen Staples, who moved to Vancouver from Seattle in late 2015, stood in the crowd bearing a neon yellow sign calling for a boycott of Trump hotels and suppliers.

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"I'm super concerned with Trump's policies on many levels related to health care, foreign policy, education, his outlook on women," she said. "I'm here protesting because I feel his policies and his brand have no place in a city like Vancouver, which prides itself on being very progressive and inclusive."

Despite protesters urging boycotts, Trump International will benefit from the tourism boom in Vancouver, fuelled by the lower loonie, said Bryan Yu, senior economist at Central 1 Credit Union. "There are political objections, but the Trumps don't own the building. The hotel is brand spanking new and it's looking at a wealth-driven market," he said.

Condo-hotel competitors in the high-end accommodation sector in downtown Vancouver include the Shangri-La, Fairmont Pacific Rim and Rosewood Hotel Georgia. When those places are booked, Trump International is poised to benefit, even though it may be far from the first choice for some visitors, said Andy Yan, director of Simon Fraser University's City Program.

He believes Trump International's hotel operations in Vancouver stand a good chance of weathering the storm of protests in the short term and prospering in the long term, helped by international visitors who support the U.S. President or are politically indifferent.

Opposition in Canada to the Trump brand is strong, according to a new Insights West poll of more than 1,000 Canadian residents. Forty-five per cent of the respondents said they are "very likely" or "somewhat likely" to boycott an outlet in a Trump-branded building, notably a hotel, restaurant or store, said Mario Canseco, Insight West's vice-president of public affairs.

With a report from Andrea Woo

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About the Author

Brent Jang is a business reporter in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. He joined the Globe in 1995. His former positions include transportation reporter in Toronto, energy correspondent in Calgary and Western columnist for Report on Business. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Alberta, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of The Gateway student newspaper. Mr. More

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