Aspen Skico CEO Mike Kaplan takes aim at Trump and ‘xenophobia radiating from the Oval Office’

Aspen Skiing Co. president and CEO Mike Kaplan takes aim at the Trump administration's immigration policies in an op-ed published Friday in the Wall Street Journal.
Austin Colbert/Aspen Times file photo |

In a guest opinion column published Friday in the Wall Street Journal, Aspen Skiing Co. president and CEO Mike Kaplan said the major reason for a 30 percent drop in visitors from Mexico in the 2016-17 ski season was largely because of “xenophobia radiating from the Oval Office.”

The op-ed is another in a series of criticisms Kaplan has pointed at the Trump administration since the election.

In the Wall Street Journal piece, Kaplan makes the argument that those signals coming from President Trump are bad for business, and he needs to stop.

“Last year visitation to Aspen by Mexicans dropped 30 percent compared with the 2015-16 ski season,” Kaplan writes in the op-ed, which can only be read in the Wall Street Journal or on its website (which has a paywall). “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.”

“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. Foreign visitors come here and spend their money. The U.S. destinations they visit cannot be ‘off-shored’ or moved to Mexico.”

Earlier this week, The New York Times, citing figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce, reported a drop of nearly 700,000 international visitors to the United States in the first quarter of 2017 compared with the same time last year. Figures show a 10.1 percent drop from European countries, and 7.1 percent drop from Mexican visitors.

“While his defenders will argue Mr. Trump has only been singling out illegal aliens, the affluent Mexicans who would normally visit Aspen seem to disagree,” Kaplan writes in his op-ed.

Reached Thursday by email while traveling, Kaplan said he submitted the column because the season is near and “the uncertainty around immigration and foreign travel continues to linger. We thought appealing to Trump on business grounds might resonate with him and the administration.”

Kaplan said they have not seen as dramatic a drop in visitors from other countries as they have from Mexico, “but we expect that more foreign visitors will take their business to destinations outside the U.S. if our country continues to send unwelcoming signals to the world.”

Earlier this month, Skico launched a new marketing campaign called The Aspen Way. It will be rolled out during the season and is centered around four key words: Love, Respect, Unity and Commit.

The new campaign was inspired by an opinion piece Kaplan wrote in December titled “We’re Still Here,” which went viral. It addressed then President-elect Trump’s platform and how it 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,” Kaplan wrote 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.”

Also this month, Kaplan took aim at the Trump administration’s desire to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.

On the resort’s Facebook page, Kaplan wrote to Trump that his idea to rescind DACA “can only be described as shortsighted and a direct violation of the principles and history that have made our country great. You have made us feel a profound sense of sadness and shame.”

Kaplan said Thursday that with the new campaign and the op-ed the resort wants to “send a loud-and-clear signal that Aspen Snowmass welcomes the world.”