December 24, 2021

r4clicks-instagram-1127-ig-18154750810106100Gratitude is natural at moments like these, and as I draw closer to my one year anniversary in Sedona this February, I have more to be grateful for than most. The warmth and openness of so many people have moved me in ways I could not have anticipated. To those who opened their homes to me or found me a place to lay my head while I looked for a place to settle, and to the many more who offered space at their table during my long separations from my family, I am forever indebted. Others encouraged and mentored me as I grappled with the dynamics of a community navigating an uncharted course in choppy waters through a global pandemic that brought record visitation and increased pressure on our infrastructure, environment, and quality of life. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

An achievement that I am proud of is how the chamber Board of Directors and staff have shifted gears, refocusing our energies to on-the-ground destination management and in some cases, mitigation. Since the Council approved our Destination Resiliency Plan in July, we have demonstrated the role of a “Three Cs” chamber – a catalyst, convenor, and champion, seeking collaborative solutions to workforce including housing, public transit, short term rentals, and OHV impacts, just to name a few.

Destination management involves educating our visitors, who continue to pour in from around Arizona, especially the ever-expanding Phoenix area. From the Red Rock OHV Conservation Crew pop up tents on Diamondback Gulch and Broken Arrow to our new partnership with Leave No Trace featuring its 7 Principles, we are making progress in setting behavioral expectations for our visitors. We are communicating the message to respect and protect Sedona, and that we see them as willing partners with us to care for Red Rock Country.

The idea that a “pause” of destination marketing would stabilize or even reduce visitation has not happened. The post-pandemic urge to travel and the Phoenix area’s population explosion means we are seeing more visitors than ever.

As a result, once again our local economy is performing at never-before-seen levels. The City’s FY22 sales and bed tax revenues are outpacing any prior year. This is not a complete surprise. City budgeters did not anticipated a “pause” would result in a revenue reduction which was demonstrated by their FY22 projections, since marketing by other private entities and by social media influencers would continue unabated. What no one fully anticipated was the continued record setting pace of economic growth, but here we are.

Unfortunately, the COVID rollercoaster ride continues with the Omicron variant’s emergence. Its unpredictability makes the future that much murkier. Santa, a crystal ball this year perhaps? Nevertheless, in this final week of 2021, we can all be grateful for what we do know and that is the greater Sedona community cares for its own. Cheers, and let the holidays begin!

-Candace Carr Strauss,