Loving Sedona is the Chamber’s Top Priority


May 25, 2018

I feel fortunate to live and work in Sedona for the last nine years.  Growing up in Sedona in the 1970’s, attending Mingus Union High School and working for the Chamber of Commerce has given me a great sense of responsibility to help make Sedona the best place to live, work, play and visit.  My parents have enjoyed living in Uptown Sedona for 15 years, and many of the values that I learned growing up here have helped form the person I am today.  I enjoy my work in Sedona because I help coordinate with local volunteers, employees, land managers, event organizers, businesses, non-profits organizations and area groups who all care for this treasured city we are so lucky to call home.

Our staff and board members volunteer with local organizations, give back to the community and care deeply about Sedona. In March, our team joined forces with the USFS and spent the day on Huckabee Trail digging ditches, moving rocks, lobbing branches and helping maintain the amazing trail system that we value so much.  Loving Sedona is a requirement to join the team at the chamber, and while tourism is our major industry, and 10,000 neighbors rely on it for their livelihood, our chamber efforts have never been about blindly bringing more and more visitors.  That’s why it’s important for you to know that even though we’ve seen increases in our budget through the growth of the bed tax, we’re spending most of that increase on programs that our residents value most.  These programs are centered around transportation projects, stewardship of the natural environment and elevating arts and wellness in the community.  We’re not looking to bring more visitors to Sedona, but rather, trying to get them to stay longer, benefiting from the good aspects of tourism while working hard to minimize the negative impacts to our quality of life.  We’re focused on using tourism dollars to benefit the entire community.
One of our recent priorities is the development of the Sustainable Tourism Plan which focuses on balancing quality of life, quality of the economy, the natural environment and visitation.  This long-term approach is based upon a platform of community visioning and planning.  The planning is guided by the people who live and work here, by developing goals, objectives, and specific projects that align with residential desires.  Why does sustainable tourism matter?  Because for Sedona to thrive we must be diligent regarding responsible destination management – it’s all intrinsically connected.  That’s why the City of Sedona and the SCC&TB have partnered with Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability on the development of a Sustainable Tourism Plan which will address the following three areas:

Environmental Sustainability:  The environment is critical to our community, our region, our state and our planet – I’d venture to guess that without the red rocks of Sedona most of us would not be here.  Both the natural environment (such as trails, forests, and Oak Creek) and the built environment (such as historic buildings and heritage sites) must be protected for an area to be environmentally sustainable.  Environmental sustainability means making sure resources in the area can be protected for use by future generations.  Environmental sustainability is much more than reusing towels in a hotel and calling it being “green.”  It means being aware of the impact that we can have on a destination and finding ways to make that impact as positive as possible.

Socio-cultural Sustainability:  Socio-cultural sustainability means working to minimize negative impacts while fostering more positive ones, such as promoting cultural exchange, connection to each other and preserving local traditions.  This can usually be achieved by connecting locals and visitors to each other, to the land and to our shared values as a community.  This could be as simple as encouraging the sharing of interesting local customs (like artwork or dancing), or connecting in volunteer programs or non-profit programs, or as involved as making it easier for locals to start or own new businesses.  An engaged community will not only offer a more authentic experience for all, but we will be more likely to see tourism in a positive light because we will feel a sense of ownership and pride in it.

Economic Sustainability:  The last pillar of sustainability revolves around the economy.  Many people don’t consider economics when thinking about sustainability, but it’s important to making a tourism venture sustainable.  Economic sustainability is important not only to businesses involved in tourism, but also to the residents who benefit from the products, services and events, but also the benefits from the tax dollars infused into the local economy funding many of our quality of life amenities.

The Sustainable Tourism Plan will include a review of trends, evaluation of accommodation capacity, infrastructure and offerings through the lens of sustainability.  The project will engage residents and businesses in the overall vision of tourism in Sedona and will provide recommendations of the limits of acceptable change.  The plan will help Sedona develop a visitor management system and will create a framework for measuring and monitoring the impacts of tourism (environmental, social, and economic) that can be used during the 5-year plan and beyond.

The plan is currently underway with focus groups and visitor surveys.  Over the coming weeks, ASU will also conduct the resident and stakeholder surveys.  The plan is scheduled to be completed in fall of 2018.

For more information, visit SedonaSustainable.com or contact Michelle Conway, Director of Marketing, at the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau with any questions at 928.204.1123, Ext 115.

–Michelle Conway, Director of Marketing