Destination Recovery Plan



June 12, 2020

sunset in SedonaWant to see sustainability in action? Check out Guidance Air and Sedona Air Tours. This week, they announced an end to all overflights within the city and surrounding neighborhoods, effective immediately. Arrivals and departures will move to the west end of the airport, away from more populated areas. Following discussions with the Chamber, Yavapai County, the City, the Airport Authority and Keep Sedona Beautiful, the companies agree they want to have less of an impact on the community and want to be more noise-sensitive.

Their flight alterations touch on all four pillars of the Sustainability Plan, improving our quality of life and environment while preserving economic impact and visitor experience. As they have done for years, the tours will continue to thrill visitors with unforgettable rides over red rock country. It’s a win all around and a salute to collaborating for success.

Next up is the gradual, sustainable revival of our visitor-based economy. Sadly, we have seen what happens to our livelihoods when visitation collapses. On Memorial Day, we saw the overcrowding and litter that can occur when Sedona freezes sustainability-focused messaging and tourism “just happens” (we stopped promoting Sedona to multi-night, affluent visitors in February, before the coronavirus struck).

Wednesday, the City Council reviewed the FY21 Destination Recovery Plan, forged in the heat of the crisis with the City of Sedona, the Chamber Board, the Sedona Lodging Council and the business and elected leaders of the Sedona Tourism Economic Recovery Task Force. We also looped in travel experts from around the US.

Measured by tax collections, Sedona was on course for a record year before the coronavirus struck. Now, Oxford Economics says US travel will take a $519 billion hit this year, with an overall economic loss of $1.2 trillion – nine times the impact of 9/11. Local data confirms this. A recent NAU survey showed that more than half of responding Sedona businesses were closed, including 88 percent of restaurants and 79 percent of tourist attractions.

How to recover? Research tells us public safety comes first, starting with assurances that we are taking precautions, such as Sedona|Safe.Clean.Ready. “Speed to market” is vital as pent up demand creates competition in our drive markets of Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Diego.

These markets are critical because they feature concentrations of our “sustainable visitor” demographic within driving distance: households in the 25-54 age range with annual incomes of more than $150,000. This group is curious, open-minded and seeking to connect with their destination, favoring places with a commitment to sustainability. They are open to extending their stay, sharing their journey with their social media friends and booking return visits. Overnight and multi-night guests are about 60 percent of Sedona’s visitors now, and we aim to expand that.

Analysis shows we are well-positioned to do so. Our pandemic-weary demographic wants wide open spaces where distancing is relatively easy, with fresh air and the soothing effect of a beautiful natural environment. We are ready to deliver.

The “Find Your Room to Play” campaign launches next week and speaks to the desire for big, safe, clean natural spaces with plenty of freedom. We are encouraging multi-day experiences with categories such as “find your room” to breathe, shop, explore, roam, indulge, and wonder.

Although hotel occupancy is not expected to rebound to pre-COVID levels in the next fiscal year, our goals include achieving pre-COVID-19 visitor spending levels. Our strategy is to gradually increase the number of longer-staying guests while positioning Sedona as the premier destination for a safe, refreshing experience.

There is much in our Destination Recovery Plan than room allows today, and I look forward to sharing additional details in next week’s column.

                                          –Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO