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What's really going on in Sedona

After some recent negative press in which views on visitors, tourism, and the Sedona City-Chamber relationship were highlighted, we thought we’d share our perspective. See the following joint statement from the City of Sedona and the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau (SCC&TB) in which the past, present and future state of tourism are addressed:

 

Sedona is a place you need to see in person to fully grasp the detail, colors and beauty that can overwhelm the senses in the best way possible. 

 

When the pandemic hit, people needed an escape. For many, Sedona was just the cure. As visitation boomed in 2021, it became too much, too fast, for a community with an infrastructure for roughly 10,000 full-time residents and up until this point, a predictable number of visitors. With the jointly produced Sedona Sustainable Tourism Plan, the first in the state of Arizona, having launched just a couple of years prior to the pandemic, the City and SCC&TB were poised with a destination management mindset. Both entities determined that a pause in destination marketing was needed to slow the influx and assess how best to tackle this issue. 

 

Meanwhile social media exploded, and Instagram worthy content became the rage where off-trail secret places — often loaded with cultural resources like ancient rock walls and rock art — became overrun with social media likes, views, geo-tags and comments. With this upward trajectory of visitation came further discussions around visitor management with regards to trash, land and resource degradation, traffic and the need for a more robust transit system as soon as possible.

 

As businesses did their best to react to the changing tourism landscape, they staffed up and held on for the ride, all while inflation and the price of doing business continued to increase month-after-month.

 

As the economic boom from the pandemic began to moderate and competing destinations ramped up their own methods for attracting travelers, there was disagreement between the SCC&TB and the City on when and how to reinstate destination marketing. Beginning in the summer of 2022, we began to see visitation plateau and then drop. By mid-2023, the SCC&TB ended their contract with the City for destination marketing and management services. With mutual respect however, we are committed to working together. Each organization has defined their roles: The City of Sedona now markets and manages the destination, and the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau markets and supports the business community. 

 

As the dust settles, a few things are very clear: 

  • Sedona needs and wants visitors — from all states and walks of life — as tourism is the lifeblood of the economy. 
  • The businesses need to be supported with destination marketing efforts during off-peak seasons and Chamber services year-round as they are the front line of tourism in this city. 
  • The City and the SCC&TB have joined forces to support each other in defining the future of responsible visitation where resident quality of life and the tourism economy are not at odds with each other. 
  • Most importantly, together, we welcome visitors to this incredible city, encouraging them to love Sedona, but also help care for and love Sedona like the locals do.

 

Responsible visitation and sustainable travel are not just fluffy words in Sedona. Residents pick up trash while hiking, work to preserve the trails, respect the peace and quiet in our neighborhoods and treasure the gift of living in this land that leaves a thin layer of red dust on our shoes. Trailhead shuttle transportation has been added to lighten the load of cars on the roads, lessen the impact of parking in residential neighborhoods and provide free public transport for locals and visitors to sit back and enjoy the convenience to their favorite or new hiking spot. This is just one of many examples of forward-thinking management programs in place, with more in development.

 

There’s room in Red Rock Country for all of us, but we ask that visitors consider visiting when it’s not as popular; summer and winter are unique for many reasons. These times provide you with an opportunity to visit a trail and enjoy more quiet moments, chances to see wildlife and make photo taking that much more epic. Restaurants, shops and accommodations are also more readily available and easier to access. 

 

Sedona is more than a place to snap a photo and move on. It’s a place to reconnect, with nature or with the ones you love. It’s a place to enjoy solitude and soak in the 300+ days of sunshine. It’s an outdoor lover’s paradise and an awe-inspiring destination for the arts. Sedona is a place to savor the cuisine along with the views. Sedona’s civic leaders, Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, business community and residents invite you to have your own magnificent experience in Sedona while protecting, cherishing and respecting this one-of-a-kind destination for generations to come. 

 

-The Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau and City of Sedona Tourism Program teams

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