Other Destinations: Communicating to Make Visitors Involved, Responsible Tourists



June 18, 2021


Isn’t it great to have SIFF back in town? It reminds me that we are a part of one of the planet’s biggest industries. Tourism, according to statista.com, contributed $9.25 trillion to the worldwide economy in 2019.

This summer, travel is roaring back, especially to more rural destinations like Sedona. We are far from alone in wrestling with tourism’s challenges. Outdoor destinations have been doing it for years.  Their approach: speak directly to visitors, stressing their responsibility to the destination.

Mammoth Lakes, California:  Environment Front and Center

Some places politely yet firmly set expectations while offering good advice. On Mammoth Lakes, California, visitor web site, the most prominent links are ‘Responsible Travel’ and ‘Sustainable Travel.’ The Sustainable Travel pages show people how to recreate mindfully on water, at campsites and in the mountains, modeled on the principles of Leave No Trace.  The “Around Town” section courteously directs visitors not to litter, clean up after their pets, reduce single-use plastics, and park their cars whenever possible in favor of walking, biking and transit.

“Colo-Ready” Makes Colorado Priorities Clear

Colorado destinations work together on “Are you Colo-Ready?”, a program all about environmental responsibility. The “Care for Colorado: It’s the Only One We’ve Got” campaign drives the message home with colorful graphics and an online quiz.  The high-profile “Colo-Road Trips” website cleverly disperses crowds by promoting lesser-known but still-spectacular locales. The overall message is unmistakable: we welcome you, and you need to understand your responsibilities to Colorado’s lifestyle and environment.

Hawaii: Heavily Impacted and Responding

Hawaii is one of the most visited locations in the world,  and is among the first to respond to tourism-caused environmental degradation.  “Malama Hawaii” (“Give Back to Hawaii”) advises travelers to spend some of their island time preserving wildlife, native forestland, the ocean and the community, encouraging everyone to be “part of a virtuous circle.” They also involve the travel industry; Alaska Airlines is planting 900 trees on a deforested Oahu ranch, and hotels are offering free nights to visitors volunteering for Malama Hawaii activities.

Sedona Must Learn the Difference Between Attracting Visitor and Enlisting Visitors

These are just a few examples of getting visitors directly involved in sustainability. In Sedona, we have a few pieces in place with The Sedona Cares Pledge and promoting Leave No Trace principles. The logical next step is a fully-developed visitor engagement and education strategy that employs our website, social media, press relations, community nonprofits and other assets. 

It’s time for Sedona to see the difference between reaching out to attract visitors and reaching out to educate and engage them. Without our visitors, we have no economic base.  Without visitors who practice responsible visitation that gives back to Sedona, we diminish our drive for long-term sustainability.

Let’s not pretend tourism is going away or blindly think all visitor outreach is so-called ‘marketing’ that will worsen traffic. Sedonans are more sophisticated than that, and intelligent enough to benefit from the experience of others in our position.

-Candace Carr Strauss,