New Chamber Mission Focuses on Sustainability

Our mission statement is a formal summary of the aims and values of our organization, and everything we do points to this mission.  The Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau recently changed its mission to address the shifts in our organization over the last couple years.  The new statement is: To serve Sedona by making it the best place to live, work, play and visit. We strive to achieve this mission by celebrating local culture, protecting the environment and sustaining the local economy.

Our previous mission statement which was: To serve the community by enhancing economic vitality and to stimulate economic growth by marketing Sedona as a premier destination while providing an exceptional visitor experience.  The shift to our new mission is a direct result of the shift in our organization’s focus. The issues facing our community are very different than the issues we faced twenty, ten, or even three years ago when our tourism economy was still recovering from the nation’s most severe recession since the Great Depression. It’s a move to look at a robust economy as a four-legged stool focused on 1) quality of life, 2) quality of the economy, 3) stewardship of the natural environment; and, 4) quality of the visitor experience.

Sometimes I’ll hear from locals, (who admittedly aren’t informed about what we do and why we do it) that we don’t care about the quality of life of our residents and that we just want more, more, more tourism.  This is not the case.  And our new mission statement puts that in the spotlight.

The reality is that our quality of life is directly related to the quality of our economy and the preservation of our natural resources.  I’m not saying that one is more important than the other, but if you put me on the spot, I would have to say that quality of life is THE most important component to a robust economy.  If we live in place where people want to be – then who wouldn’t want to move here to start a business, work, or visit.

It’s an often-cited misconception that the City, the City Council and/or the Chamber are more concerned with thriving business than quality of life.  I do not share that perspective. Over the last three years, as it became obvious that our destination marketing was effective, the City and the Chamber have taken steps to balance a thriving tourist economy with quality of life.

First and foremost, while the Chamber contract has grown with the growth of bed tax, the amount dedicated to marketing and advertising outside of the region has been relatively flat.  Most of the growth in that contract has gone to product development, and product development focuses more and more on things that improve local quality of life and the visitor experience with a specific focus on transportation solutions and sustainability initiatives.

Secondly, the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau has moved away from a traditional destination marketing and promotion model and toward a “tourism management” model.  This means more focus on balance, mitigating negative impacts, and keeping focus on quality of life.  The Chamber took this direction because of countless hours of conversations about how to ensure long term balance. Now that shift is formally reflected in our mission statement.

The most significant evidence of this is the development of a sustainable tourism plan. That planning effort includes participation by the Arizona State University’s Center of Sustainable Tourism Program, which brings expertise in public lands management, resource use and conservation and preserving quality of life. The plan will include participation from community stakeholders concerned with sustainability and quality of life. The plan also includes a scientific survey aimed at gauging resident’s opinion on quality of life. It should be noted that the City recently conducted a scientific survey and the results show that in general, quality of life in Sedona is rated higher today than 10 years ago and higher than 15 years ago, not lower.

The plan will define sustainable tourism as an approach to planning, management, and marketing that constantly monitors and balances the trade-offs between a thriving tourist economy and tourism’s impacts to Sedona’s traffic, natural environment and sense of community.

For Sedona’s tourism industry to be truly sustainable, there must be a balance among three key tourism benefits and impacts: environmental (trails, Oak Creek, Verde River), socio-cultural (our unique local character) and economic (sales tax base and robust industry). And that’s what we are working towards: balance.

You’ll see more about the Sustainable Tourism Plan over the next few months. If you’d like more information, you can visit www.SedonaSustainable.com.

–Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO