Analyst: Decline in foreign visits to the U.S. due to economics, travel costs, politics |

Analyst: Decline in foreign visits to the U.S. due to economics, travel costs, politics

EAGLE COUNTY — While the local economy is robust, there could be signs of concern on the horizon, including foreign visitation that seems to be cooling.

Ralf Garrison, a longtime resort industry analyst and consultant, said there’s been a decline in international leisure travel into the United States.

Garrison said there are three main drivers of foreign visits to this country: economics, the cost of transportation and geopolitics.

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For the past few years, economics has played a large role in how much a vacation to the United States costs.

Over the past few years, the Euro has lost roughly one-third of its value against the dollar. The Mexican Peso has lost almost half its value against the dollar since 2008.

That means it’s more expensive for visitors from Europe and Mexico — along with most other countries — to visit the United States.

Perhaps just as important is politics. Garrison said that in the past 18 to 24 months, many international visitors see the Untied States as not a particularly welcoming place to vacation. People aren’t coming as a result.

Tom Foley, of Inntopia, added that there’s been a change in the perception of the United States as a friendly place for international visits.

Still, Foley said, the high-end travel market hasn’t been particularly hard hit by the Great Recession, current economics or politics. But that applies only to high-end travelers.

Things are different when marketing to the merely well-off.

Foley said with the added expense of traveling to the United States, there’s an opportunity to market to a domestic audience. But, he added, there’s a lot of competition for that audience.

“Travel abroad is a bigger opportunity for the domestic market now,” Foley said. Additionally, competition for domestic visitors goes far beyond mountain resorts. Competition also comes from places including Disney World, Sea World and cruise lines.

Foley added there’s also an “aggressive fight for non-luxury foreign travel.”

That means destinations have to be smart in their marketing.

Garrison noted that in the past 18 to 24 months, visitors from Mexico and South America have been traveling more to Canada. Politics plays a role, but so does the fact that a peso goes farther in Canada than it does in this country.

While Foley, Garrison and other analysts look at broader trends, Mike Brumbaugh, who owns Venture Sports in Vail, said economics and politics are secondary to the factor always in play in mountain resorts: weather.


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