Mike Kaplan, president and CEO of Aspen Skiing Co.
Mike Kaplan, president and CEO of Aspen Skiing Co.

Aspen CEO Blames Trump for Decline in Mexican Tourism

Mike Kaplan cites a xenophobic Oval Office for big drop in tourist numbers

Recently, Mike Kaplan, president and CEO of Aspen Skiing Co., published a guest opinion column in the Wall Street Journal pointing the finger at the Trump Administration as a key factor in the declining numbers of Mexican visitors to Aspen during the 2016-17 winter season.

"Last year, visitation to Aspen by Mexicans dropped 30 percent compared to the 2015-16 season," Kaplan wrote in the op-ed. "Bookings for 2017-18 aren't looking much better. There are multiple reasons, but xenophobia radiating from the Oval Office ranks at the top."

Kaplan said in a phone interview that his reasoning behind writing the opinion piece was to address changes Skico saw both at home, and in the industry at large. "Looking back at last season, we're starting to see some concerning trends, namely in foreign visitor numbers, especially those from Mexico."

"If President Trump is as concerned with the U.S. trade deficit as he says, he should recognize that tourism to the U.S. is a type of export to other countries," Kaplan said in his op-ed. "Foreign visitors come here and spend their money. The U.S. destinations they visit cannot be ‘off-shored’ or moved to Mexico."

Kaplan also pointed out in his op-ed that while many of Trump's supporters will argue that he has only been targeting illegal aliens, the vast decline in affluent Mexicans who normally spend their vacation days in Aspen show Trump's words and actions say differently.

The decrease in international tourism is happening outside of the ski world as well. Citing figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the New York Times published an article earlier this month reporting a 7.1 percent drop in Mexican visitors in the first quarter of 2017 compared to last year, and a 10.1 percent decline in visitors from European countries.

The thoughts expressed in his op-ed are not new for the CEO, either. In a similar opinion piece Kaplan wrote in December, titled "We're Still Here," he addressed then President-elect Trump's campaign promises and platform, and how they drastically conflicted with Skico's "core values."

"It’s on these issues I want to make a few things clear: Aspen Snowmass, as a destination, and Aspen Skiing Co., as a place of business with nearly 4,000 employees, has always been and will always remain dedicated to tolerance, open-mindedness, environmental sustainability, and civility," wrote Kaplan in December. "This includes doing our very best to work with the new federal administration. My words here are not a broadside against Trump. Rather, they take issue with some specific aspects of his campaign and policy direction."

It was on these core values that Aspen Skiing Co. built their new marketing campaign, "The Aspen Way." Centered around four key words: Love, Respect, Unity, and Commit, the new campaign is set to roll out during the upcoming season, highlighting Aspen's commitment to remain open, caring, and environmentally conscious.

When asked what kind of message he wanted these opinion pieces and campaigns to have, Kaplan simply said, "At the end of the day, we want people to know that they're welcome here."