My company runs four ski areas, two hotels and more than a dozen restaurants in Aspen and Snowmass, Colo. At peak season, we employ roughly 4,000 people. Foreign visitors are crucial to our business — and we have a problem.
Last year visitation to Aspen by Mexicans dropped 30% compared with the 2015-16 ski season. Bookings for 2017-18 aren’t looking much better. There are multiple reasons, but the xenophobia radiating from the Oval Office ranks at the top. As the head of the Mexico City public-relations firm that promotes Aspen in Mexico told us, “The dollar has been strong, which makes travel to the U.S. expensive, but Trump is the No. 1 reason.”
It’s not just ski resorts. Tourism Economics, a travel-research firm, estimated earlier this year that in 2017 the U.S. will see 1.8 million fewer visitors from Mexico than in 2016, with a direct economic loss of $1.1 billion. The outlook for 2018 is even worse: 2.6 million fewer visits and $1.6 billion lost.
Where did our customers go? A lot went to Canada, which sent a welcoming signal to Mexicans less than a month after Trump was elected. Back in 2009, Canada instituted a visa requirement for Mexican visitors. Last December, likely sensing opportunity, Canada rescinded the requirement.