AS SEEN IN THE RED ROCK NEWS
February 5, 2021
Yavapai and Coconino County health officials continue to move steadily through Phase 1 of the COVID-19 vaccination program. That’s good news for Sedonans and our friends, co-workers and loved ones. But COVID remains a formidable adversary. Though the arrival of the vaccine is welcome news, the virus’s course remains unpredictable, as does its economic and social impact.
As we near the end of the first year of the pandemic, we can be thankful Sedona’s economy began reviving more quickly than anticipated by City budget planners and the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau. Since the pandemic began, we reviewed in this weekly communication the economic crash last spring and the data from the latter half of 2020 that show Sedona recovering more quickly than most destinations.
Signs of recovery began as early as June when the average daily rate (ADR) charged by Sedona hotels surpassed June 2019. Occupancy rates – the percentage of available rooms occupied by visitors – remained below pre-COVID levels throughout the summer but were improving.
By October 2020, occupancy rates began to surpass the same periods in 2019 and stayed near 2019 levels throughout the fall. ADR remained consistently higher than in 2019. In the fall, the City reported tax revenues in July through September were at the highest in Sedona’s history and easily exceeded revenue from the same period in 2019. Consumer spending in Sedona, driven by visitors, was recovering at a rate seen in few other tourism destinations.
However, data in our traditionally slower winter season has begun to reflect a slowdown. Whether this is strictly seasonal or tied to another virus-driven circumstance is at this point unknown.
Preliminary data for January shows occupancy dipping from December 2020, which is expected during this slower time. However, the same data shows the ADR in late January dropping below December’s. This decrease gives us pause as the Chamber and City Council jointly plan for FY22, which begins July 1, 2021.
Much of the City/Chamber joint marketing strategy has been officially on hold. Our high visitation levels in 2020 were not the result of an effort to attract Sedona’s desired demographic of longer-staying, more affluent visitors with an affinity for our pro-environment messages. One result is an increase in adverse environmental impacts such as littering. Keep Sedona Beautiful is a leader in responding to the problem, along with grassroots groups such as Stewards of Sedona, whose work we highlighted last fall. To further Sedona’s response to environmental challenges, the Chamber is planning a public Trails Impact Town Hall with the Forest Service, the City of Sedona and other stakeholders to find new ways to mitigate these impacts. We will keep you posted on meeting details on our Facebook page, @SedonaChamberofCommerce.
Economic projection is notoriously tricky, but the trend shows Sedona moving in the right direction. It remains to be seen whether this will continue for the rest of the fiscal year and into the next, which begins July 1. There are some caution signals ahead. We have yet to feel the impact of the COVID-caused cancellation of many popular annual events, such as the Sedona International Film Festival, for example.
As we look ahead, we will work with the City Council to devise strategies appropriate to the health and safety of Sedona, and find ways to reconnect with the visitors we know are most desirable – people who stay longer, spend more and support a sustainable Red Rock Country environment, economy and lifestyle.
–Michelle Conway, Interim President/CEO and Director of Marketing