Flagging Indicators Mean a Fresh Marketing Campaign is Essential



February 24, 2023


sedona-snow-2022Arizona Office of Tourism has hired its new director Lisa Urias, an Arizona Community Foundation leader with more than 20 years of experience in multicultural marketing and public relations. Sedona is a critical piece in Arizona’s tourism tableau, so I touched base with Lisa to ensure continuity of mission and direction with her office, whose charge is to manage the image of Arizona and promote travel to our state amid an increasingly competitive national tourism environment. The stakes are high – tourism’s annual economic impact in Arizona is roughly $25 billion.

Outgoing Director Debbie Johnson served for seven-and-a-half years, steering AOT through a time of tourism growth followed by the COVID emergency, which devastated travel. Under Debbie’s leadership, tourism came roaring back, and she was active in working with Red Rock Country’s tourism management efforts. I applaud Debbie’s long service, and I’m thrilled that she and Lisa are long-time acquaintances, making for a smooth transition.

One of Lisa’s focus areas will be Northern Arizona tourism, so distinct from other parts of the state, such as the densely populated Valley of the Sun, fresh off hosting the Super Bowl and the Waste Management Open. Sedona’s appeal is our natural splendor, outdoor adventure, spirituality, an incredible arts community and a rapidly evolving food and cultural scene. Relatively remote and semi-rural, with no economic sectors that can compare with tourism’s impact, Sedona’s economy is sensitive to travel trends. As you may know, recent signs have turned negative.

Municipal tax revenues generated by business activity will probably not meet predicted levels this year, according to the city of Sedona. This could mean less money for city services and improvements. Hotel occupancy is also dropping compared to last year. Hotels have cut prices to stem the decline; average room rates were down 10.4% in December ’22 compared to ’21. Rates in short-term rentals are also down. For months, we have been hearing from many partners about slumping foot traffic and revenues.

After two years of a pause in marketing, these alarming negative indicators have triggered new plans to introduce Red Rock Country. Our economy needs a reliable stream of desirable visitors who stay multiple days, spend more than day trippers, and are sensitive to our environment and lifestyle concerns.

So, we are enlisting our more than 700 Chamber partners to support a targeted out-of-state marketing campaign encouraging travelers to “Meet Sedona Again.” Working with our advertising consultant to craft a fully developed strategy, we’ve joined with the Sedona Lodging Council and the newly formed Sedona Verde Valley Marketing Alliance to kick it off. The campaign will feature the Sedona we insiders know,  where dining, arts, culture and retail are all first rate. Naturally, our scenic beauty and outdoor adventures will be obvious. We will continue our “Respect Red Rock Country” messaging, helping visitors keep Sedona’s sustainability top of mind.

The campaign will run from April through June. We are asking businesses to participate in raising $225,000 to make it happen. Our entire business community, and the thousands of families they support, will benefit, and all are eligible to participate. Our message to business owners across the area: Now is the time to step up and get involved. Visit SVVMarketingAlliance.com for information and to pledge your support.

Destinations everywhere are competing for travelers’ business. After a two-year absence, it is essential we position Sedona as a gorgeous multi-day adventure with endless options while continuing to educate guests about respecting our wild places and neighborhoods. It’s a responsible — and sustainable — step in balanced management of Sedona’s tourism industry.


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