Trump Turnberry resort singled out in airport’s pitch to US military

Trump Turnberry has run up losses of nearly �33m under the US president's ownership. Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty
Trump Turnberry has run up losses of nearly �33m under the US president's ownership. Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty
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Donald Trump’s Turnberry resort is the only hotel named by Glasgow Prestwick Airport in promotional material distributed at private meetings with US military aircrews in an attempt to win their custom, The Scotsman can reveal.

The document, prepared by the Scottish Government owned airport and handed out at ‘closed’ meetings with US Armed Forces personnel, emphasises the “five star” status of the US president’s flagship Scottish property, even noting how it has been “newly refurbished.”

Two sources familiar with the gatherings said Prestwick staff also delivered presentations in which they offered to arrange rounds of golf at Turnberry for visiting US Air Force (USAF) crews as part of their layovers.

Amid growing scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic of US military payments and patronage of the beleaguered airport and Mr Trump’s nearby loss making resort, both Prestwick and the Scottish Government have stressed that Turnberry is one of 13 hotels used to accommodate inbound US military aircrews, and that there is “no commercial relationship” between the airport and Mr Trump’s firm.

However, the pamphlet, widely distributed at the private meetings with aircrews, raises further questions over the relationship between Mr Trump’s business and the airport, given the way it singles out Turnberry.

The document, a copy of which has been obtained by The Scotsman, is designed to promote Prestwick Aviation Services, the in-house Fixed Base Operations division which handles military stopovers at the heavily indebted hub, which was put up for sale earlier this year by Scottish ministers.

Encouraging US aircrews to “get more from your stopover,” it notes that airport staff are on hand to “offer recommendations and arrange hospitality.”

In the next section of the eight-page pamphlet, headed ‘Hotels’, it adds: “There are several downtown four star hotels in nearby Ayr, Prestwick, and Troon, all within a 15 minute drive from the airport. The newly refurbished five star Trump Turnberry Hotel is a 40 minute drive away.”

Sources with knowledge of the events - held throughout the US and designed to introduce aircrews to airports they will be using during deployments to Europe and further afield - said Mr Trump’s property was “prominently featured” throughout the proceedings.

“It’s made very clear that Turnberry is the most attractive option, especially if you’re on a longer layover,” one source explained. “It’s as much a pitch for Trump Turnberry as it is the airport.”

The same source said the pamphlet’s “praise” of Turnberry would influence US military customers to book it, and was particularly important in light of the protocol Prestwick uses to book rooms.

Scotland’s transport secretary, Michael Matheson, told Holyrood earlier this month that Prestwick staff would book Turnberry for aircrews “if customers specifically request it.”

The powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee in the US Congress is currently investigating payments to Prestwick and Turnberry by the US Defence Department.

The committee revealed last week that the Pentagon spent at least £147,000 at Mr Trump’s South Ayrshire hotel between August 2017 and July this year - the equivalent, it says, of more than 650 rooms, or “more than one room every night for more than one and a half years.”

The preliminary findings of a separate internal inquiry by the USAF show its crews made 517 stopovers at Prestwick between January 2017 and August this year, including 428 overnight stays. The frequency of the stopovers and overnight stays has increased sharply in recent years.

Addressing concerns of “serious conflicts of interest” and potential violations of the foreign emoluments clause of the US constitution surrounding the military spending at Prestwick and Turnberry, the House Oversight committee is also examining multimillion refuelling payments made to the airport by the US Defence Logistics Agency (DLA), a Virginia-based body which manages the global supply chain for the US Army, Navy, and Air Force.

As reported by The Scotsman earlier this month, a lucrative new fuel deal between the DLA and Prestwick has been postponed, with one source describing it as having been “kicked into the long grass” in light of the Congressional investigation. The DLA has stressed the two matters are unrelated. The existing DLA deal has netted Prestwick nearly £13.4m between January 2017 and June this year.

Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a progressive watchdog group based in the US capital, told The Scotsman: “The fear when President Trump broke from decades of precedent and refused to separate himself from his businesses was that parties, foreign and domestic, could and would try to influence him through his properties. That fear has become a reality.

“A cloud of doubt hangs over this presidency so that we don’t know whether any of his decisions are made in the best interest of the American people or in the best interest of his businesses and his personal finances.”

Glasgow Prestwick Airport did not respond to enquiries from The Scotsman.