Chamber Annual Meeting



October 9, 2020

moving-forwardThe Chamber entered October with our first and, we hope, last virtual annual meeting. This time in 2019, few of us even knew what a Zoom meeting was.

Now, after seven months of crisis, we have enough perspective to appreciate the courageous and resolute way Sedona businesses responded. At the meeting, I cited just a few examples:

> Chamber partners supported our early decision to refrain from out of town marketing, recognizing that safety was paramount.
> Their compassion, imagination and sheer willpower helped thousands of Sedonans keep their jobs and hundreds of businesses stay open, though many, too many, could not survive.
> As effective protective measures became known, hundreds of owners joined the Sedona | Safe.Clean.Ready campaign, voluntarily adopting stringent sanitation protocols while promoting safe practices to our visitors.
> When COVID-19 cases spiked in June, businesses supported the Chamber and City Council decision to immediately halt summer marketing.
> Business leaders enthusiastically joined the Sedona Tourism Economic Recovery Task Force to begin forging responsible long-term economic recovery plans.

I also noted that businesses supported each other and all Sedonans with grace, determination and even humor. They are truly among Sedona’s best.

As you may know, there are signs of recovery, which I have written about in this space for the past few weeks. Our hoteliers report improved occupancy rates since April’s low point, averaging roughly 10 percent below last year’s levels but above national averages. Throughout the summer, the average daily rate for a Sedona hotel room was higher than last year and considerably higher than the national average. These improvements have ripple effects for Sedona retailers, business supply companies and local tax collections.

We were privileged to have Arizona Office of Tourism Director Debbie Johnson address our meeting again this year. Arizona is in the first stages of AOT’s campaign to reenergize tourism, which emphasizes in-state travel such as staycations. They are underscoring the environmental and social responsibility visitors carry with them when heading to sensitive and relatively remote areas such as Sedona. That messaging will help us continue to enlist visitors in our sustainability efforts.

We continue to collaborate with the City Council to determine the timing and budget for marketing Sedona in Southern California this fall and winter. Research shows people will be seeking wide open spaces and a chance to commune with nature, positioning Sedona well as travel becomes more accepted. It is crucial to continue the Sedona | Safe.Clean.Ready partnership promoting safe interactions among our visitors, residents and businesses. I believe Sedona’s initial signs of economic recovery and continued success in keeping COVID-19 numbers down owes much to the broad participation we see in the program and the associated Mask Up, Sedona campaign.

On a personal note, this was my last annual meeting as President/CEO of the Sedona Chamber. I will deeply miss Sedona as I begin a new chapter as President/CEO of the Park City, Utah, Chamber of Commerce|Convention & Visitors Bureau. My faith in our community will never fade; I know Sedona and the Chamber will continue as a national leader in responsible tourism management, spiritual strength and business resilience. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you are doing to make Sedona better.

–Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO