Chamber’s New Tourism Direction Won’t Rely on City Funding



April 14, 2023


Sedona, Arizona - Southwest USA desert landscape sunsetLast week, the Chamber Board of Directors unanimously voted not to renew our tourism contract with the city of Sedona. The unanimity of the Board’s direction is a critical point: Our Chamber policymakers, supported by more than 740 nonprofit and business partners, have no doubt that moving in a new direction is the right thing for our members and the health of Sedona’s economy.

Since the announcement, we have received overwhelming support from our partners. They agree it is time we operate independently as the region’s certified Destination Management and Marketing Organization. It is also timely. Navigating the rapidly shifting American travel and tourism industry requires flexibility, a broad vision, access to professional tourism management tools and decisive action.

We are well prepared with all of these.

Even with our unmatched splendor, Sedona’s challenges are not unique. Other small-town destinations in the West face overcrowding, environmental concerns and resource strains. At the same time, they, like us, depend on tourism, as we compete for the tourism dollar. The Chamber is well-equipped to balance this dichotomy, but we are presently out of balance in managing tourism’s economics. As our competitors seek to meet tourism’s challenges, they also work hard to attract business. We have been absent from the travel marketplace for two years, leaving the field to our competition, and our local businesses suffer as tourism spending here slows. That is not how sustainable balance works.

Large economic forces are in play, such as inflation, increasing interest rates, a drop in consumer confidence and uncertainty about the cost of travel. These factors argue for a more assertive marketplace presence for Sedona, not to retreat. Other cities have benefitted from our loss of market share, and it is essential that we capture that revenue so that our local businesses thrive.

Balance is something we know about. The Chamber has led the local sustainable tourism movement for years, joined by residents, civic leaders, visitors and tourism experts at ASU’s Center for Sustainable Tourism and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. The Sustainable Tourism Plan’s more than 60 specific tactics work towards a balanced economy, lifestyle, environment and visitor experience. We build our annual tourism goals on these four pillars.

While many of you may object to tourism, we need to find that middle ground and create a win-win for both residents and our business community. We have seen the effects of “entitled visitors” who are not mindful of protecting Sedona. Through the proper marketing channels, we want to encourage conscientious travelers to visit.

So, what’s next? Our business community relies on us to position Sedona properly in the marketplace. For years, we have been voiceless in essential markets such as Chicago, New York and Southern California. The “Meet Sedona Again” campaign initiated by the Sedona Verde Valley Marketing Alliance and executed through the Chamber is ready to go, calibrated to re-invite sophisticated, affluent travelers eager to be part of the tourism solution. Visitors should feel welcome here — while knowing we expect courtesy that honors our environment and lifestyle.

The SCC&TB owns and operates the Visitor Center in Uptown Sedona,, various social media platforms and annual publications. We will manage these assets to maximize visitation by the sustainable traveler we seek, with messages of responsible recreation front and center.

The city’s contribution to our now-expiring contract has been funded by a .5 percent addition to the city’s bed tax, voluntarily provided by hoteliers years ago with the understanding that a percentage of the revenue promotes tourism. However, since the Council has declined to promote tourism for the past two years and has unknown plans to resume, we are asking the city to rescind that .5 percent as it is not being used for its original intent.

Various funding structures are being discussed for the SCC&TB. Already, local trade groups are enthusiastically participating in the conversation, and new groups are forming to support the idea around the Verde Valley. These are exciting but still very early days in refining a vision and structure for our most significant economic sector — tourism. Much discussion and planning lie ahead. We are excited about our new path forward.


Michelle Conway, President/CEO
Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau