Chamber’s Visitor Center is Efficient
AS SEEN IN THE RED ROCK NEWS
May 17, 2019
It’s easy to under-appreciate the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau’s Official Visitor Center. It’s an unassuming place, even at the busy corner of Forest and SR 89A. Children (and adults) play with the outdoor chimes. People fill personal bottles at the water-filling station. Sitting on the patio might remind you of your favorite café. It’s a peaceful scene.
So, it might surprise you to know the VC (as we call it) averaged 280,000 visitors served of the last two years, ten times the population of Sedona and four times the number of walk-in guests at comparably sized visitor centers nationally. Next to the Grand Canyon, we are one of the state’s busiest VCs.
Thanks to the 80 highly trained volunteers who welcome visitors and answer their questions, we’re able to operate with about one-half the staffing compared to the national average of comparably-sized centers. With sustainable tourism a priority, our amazing volunteers are eagerly taking on a new role, educating visitors to be good stewards, encouraging extended stays and dispersing congestion.
We even help people who aren’t here yet. Forty-eight percent of people responding to a Visitor’s Guide survey said they used the Visitor Center to help them plan their trip.
Sedona’s businesses appreciate the VC’s central role. In a Chamber membership survey, 80 percent said it was ‘very important’ or ‘important’ to have their rack card at the VC.
Businesses rely on us to serve their guests with the information they need to enjoy their Sedona stay. We provide resources to local concierges, hotels and short-term rentals as well as any businesses who want our materials. We attend monthly concierge meetings to update everyone on upcoming events, stewardship values and Sustainable Tourism Plan priorities.
Our $410,000 operating budget is a model of efficiency. It has not increased for the past three years and will hold steady for next year too, though we are budgeting for a one-time $100,000 repair and remodel of the VC bathrooms. Our cost per assisted visitor is $1.47, about 45% of the $3.27 national average for comparable visitor centers. Like the rest of tourism management expenditures, the Center’s budget is covered by visitors via the Sedona ‘bed tax’.
Considering tourism’s billion-dollar annual impact and links to 10,000 local jobs, the VC offers a tremendous return-on-investment. The value of volunteers should not be overlooked – their donated services last year were valued at $273,464, more than half the annual budget. The Chamber owns the building, and there are no lease costs, saving thousands every month.
All these factors support the delivery of a single, critical product: excellent service and education to Sedona’s visitors. It is all due to the expertise of the staff and volunteers, the resources available on site and online, and the efficiency of the Chamber/City partnership in budgeting and operation.
So next time you drive by, give a thought to the people behind that quiet-looking building at Forest and SR 89A. Inside, they are running one of Sedona’s most efficient economic engines. You are always welcome to stop in, visit and take advantage of our excellent resources. You will find helpful maps, coupons, brochures, event information, red rock passes and smiling volunteers ready to share their knowledge and love of Sedona.