Destination Recovery Plan – 2



June 19, 2020

Panoramic view of the beautiful landscape of Sedona in Arizona.Last week, we talked about working with local partners on a plan to gradually revive our visitor-based economy in FY21, placing safety first. We reviewed the devastation caused by the collapse in travel since February.  We talked about the Memorial Day overcrowding and litter we saw when tourism “just happens” after we ceased advertising for multi-night visitors.

These are a few factors informing the Destination Recovery Plan we presented to the City Council Wednesday. The Plan aims for a middle ground – visitation below pre-coronavirus levels but increased visitor spending to help businesses and employment recover.

Public safety comes first, assuring visitors that we are taking precautions and emphasizing the safety practices we expect of them.  That is what the Sedona|Safe.Clean.Ready campaign is all about.

Speed to market is vital as competition increases in Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Diego, where concentrations of our desired demographic (25-54 age range with incomes of more than $150,000) are within driving distance. Research shows this demographic will avoid flying when they travel and look for multi-night getaways with wide open spaces, fresh air and a chance to reconnect with nature. That’s us.

We reviewed the multi-million dollar decline in sales tax revenues with Council, with March down 42% and April anticipated to be even worse. We revealed research that most travelers are still on the fence about traveling – and residents aren’t eager to re-open to visitors – so our recovery will be gradual.

To provide an immediate boost to hurting businesses and because of competition in our drive markets, we plan to launch the Find Your Room to Play campaign this month and keep it going throughout the summer.  The campaign emphasizes our wide-open spaces, renewal, great dining and excellent accommodations – perfect for a rejuvenating multi-night stay after the drive from Phoenix or Southern California. These multi-night guests spend more than $600 per day vs. about $200 for day trippers, increasing local spending without necessarily attracting bigger crowds.

With unemployment high and city coffers depleted, we discussed the need to increase outside-Sedona marketing to attract more visitor spending.  We also discussed having touchpoints during the year to decide whether to expend the funds, since there is so much unpredictability ahead.

We rely on hotel occupancy to gauge tourism-related economic activity. Smith Travel Research predicts Sedona occupancy will average 53 percent in FY21, less than one percent above the national average.  STR pegs the average Sedona room rate at $167, higher than the national average of $104.58.

We believe we will exceed these predictions, with average occupancy at 55 percent and average room rates at $190.

However, our projections are still below pre-coronavirus levels; 23 percent below FY20 hotel occupancy and 20 percent below the FY20 average room rate. This is the middle ground we are shooting for – less activity but higher spending due to longer-staying visitors.

We will continue to emphasize safety to our residents and visitors. People have asked why the Chamber does not ‘require’ visitors to wear face coverings or wash their hands. The Chamber, as a nonprofit membership organization, has no legal authority to require anyone to do anything.  That’s one reason personal responsibility is so important.  It is up to each of us, resident and visitor alike, to interact as safely as possible.

It is harder than ever to peer into the future. With a recovery plan supported by research and aligned with Sedona’s commitment to sustainability, we have a good roadmap for moving forward, but we know that detours, sudden stops and curves may be part of the journey.

                                               –Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO