Chamber wins Governor’s Award for Tourism Plan



August 9, 2019


sunset in SedonaIt was what a community win looks like – a special moment for Sedona that happened the evening of July 23rd in Tucson.

The moment happened because hundreds of Sedonans united to share ideas on difficult challenges; because elected officials led and listened; because dedicated researchers sought public opinion and asked for more; because businesses, nonprofits, land agencies and environmental groups gathered to face issues openly; because civil servants collected data and presented reports that informed public discussion.

In other words, the special moment happened because Sedona united to create Arizona’s first Sustainable Tourism Plan.

When the Plan won unanimous approval by the City Council in March, media from around the country picked up the story.  Travel publications, outdoor media and the mainstream press covered this unique experiment by one of America’s most beautiful destinations. Overnight, Sedona emerged as a potential national leader in meeting the challenge of increased tourism.

Our response could not have come at a better time. Around the world, an emerging middle class is feeding a tourism boom, but many destinations have put off or ignored the challenges that accompany rapid growth. Now feeling overwhelmed by crowds, infrastructure stress and social and environmental strains, they are playing catch up. Kyoto has 30 million visitors a year, three times more than Miami, and is politely issuing pamphlets asking visitors not to bicycle drunkenly along the old capitol’s narrow streets. Barcelona is so packed the government may ban group tours of the famous La Rambla promenade. Hawaii researchers claim tourism in the Aloha State is “at risk” due to degradation caused by rapid growth and lack of a tourism management plan.

Under the circumstances, it is easy to see why Sedona’s Sustainable Tourism Plan attracts so much press attention. We are ahead of the curve. No Arizona destination has seen anything like our 18-month community conversation featuring surveys and public meetings, world-class experts weighing in from the ASU Center for Sustainable Tourism, regular guidance from the City Council, and data analysis and reporting by respected national-level tourism strategic planners.

So, I was very happy but not too surprised when on July 23rd, at the gala celebrating statewide excellence at the 2019 Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Tucson, the Sedona Sustainable Tourism Plan and the Chamber were honored for the first time with the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Arizona Cultural and Historic Preservation.

The award recognizes the year’s “most significant contribution to the cultural and historic preservation of the natural, cultural or aesthetic legacy of Arizona that inspires visitation to the state.”  That is precisely what we did in creating a plan balancing our one-of-a-kind environment and quality of life with respect for our economy and an understanding that travelers are here for a special experience.  We aim to inspire visitors to stay longer, spend more, get to know us, and value our environment.

Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO