Research Provides Foundation for Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau Strategies
The Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau’s mission centers on creating and maintaining economic vibrancy through business retention, attraction and diversification while attracting leisure and business visitors to fill nearly 4,000 rooms that exist in the Sedona area (including timeshares).
The Chamber’s Tourism Bureau acts as a catalyst in the development of tourism promotional programs designed to increase positive awareness of Sedona; increase the number of targeted, quality visitors who overnight; increase their average length of stay and increase their retail spending – thereby increasing tourism revenues. These programs are backed by research, ensuring that the direction our work is created with objective data in mind and is not based on opinion only.
Cutting-edge research programs enable Sedona to remain ahead of current and future market conditions. Through surveys of stakeholders, travel consumers, and visitor intercepts to Sedona and the region, the SCC&TB regularly monitors various trends and changes in Yavapai and Coconino Counties and within the state travel industry. These findings are then integrated with resources and form the basis of a strategic roadmap that guides all of our communications efforts.
The SCC&TB has a number of research initiatives underway for Fiscal Year 2018, including monthly and annual hospitality trend reports from Smith Travel Research and our monthly online Sedona Visitor surveys. All findings can be found at SedonaChamber.com under Reports & Research.
Our most recent research program was our Experience Sedona Guide Conversion Study. The Experience Sedona Guide is our official visitor guide that is produced every year as an image-rich, professional magazine complete with our Partner’s ads and business listings. These guides come out every March, and this year, by popular demand, we are printing an additional 25,000 guides for a total of 275,000. We are now printing and distributing more visitor guides than city of Phoenix! Since the guide is such an important communication tool, we conduct research on it to ensure its effectiveness. Here are some highlights:
• Of those surveyed, 84% rated the guide as “very good” or “superior”.
• Not only is the printed version popular, but 70% of those surveyed also viewed the digital version of the guide before their visit.
• Most notably, 75% (up from 65%) of those who received the guide visited Sedona.
As a second research initiative, we also email monthly Visitor Surveys to an audience that requests our visitor guide. Our intent is to better know our visitors and potential visitors. Through the survey, we get insight into their demographic profile; what activities they participated in; and, how they perceived Sedona as a destination. We then produce summary reports twice a year. The last report reflected those who requested the guide between January and June 2017. This research initiative has been underway for years now, giving us excellent benchmarks for progress made or areas for improvement. Following are key highlights:
• An increase in annual household income from $90,000 to $95,700. This is well above the national household income average of approximately $55,000, and reflects our desire to market “Quality over Quantity” in response to concerns of over-tourism.
• 55% of all travel parties contained persons between 50 and 64 years old.
• Sedona is the primary destination of 56% of visitors. Among the other areas visitors traveled to during their visit to Sedona were the Grand Canyon (55%), Flagstaff (43%), Jerome (40%), Cottonwood (27%), and Camp Verde (19%).
Thirdly, as part of the SCC&TB’s efforts towards sustaining our primary industry of tourism as well as our natural resources, we recently partnered with Arizona State University’s Center for Sustainable Tourism on research intended to answer this question: Can mindfulness enhance (travel) behavior intent? The goal of this research was to: “1) understand the presence of mindfulness among those who travel and, 2) test a hypothesized positive relationship between mindfulness and behavior intention to be sustainable.”
Our destination was the perfect place to conduct this research, having just completed the community-wide assessment with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), which helped us to benchmark our sustainability. Based on this assessment, it was recommended that we focus on four priorities, one of which is a Sustainable Tourism Destination Plan, which will include a residential survey to be implemented later this fiscal year.
Using some of the GSTC standards, ASU’s Center for Sustainable Tourism created measures of sustainable behaviors available to Sedona visitors. An online survey was then administered to individuals who requested Sedona information, asking them specific questions about their exposure to or pursuit of sustainable practices in the destination.
What did we learn? That almost all (98%) of respondents evaluated Sedona to be an eco-friendly destination. And, for all respondents, two particular vacation sustainability practices emerged as very important – the Leave No Trace practice at parks and on trails, and the desire to seek businesses where spending is retained locally. There was interest in two other areas – Sedona’s International Dark Sky designation, and lodging based on environmental practices – suggesting that there is opportunity for further promotion, education, and certification of “green” lodging.
Why is this important, you ask? Because the SCC&TB does not want to attract the masses. Rather, we want to invite those who will love and protect Sedona’s precious resources as we do. That’s why we’ve developed a number of different sustainably-oriented programs over the past few years, including Sedona Trail Keepers which, with private sector sponsorships and matching funds by the SCC&TB, will provide the US Forest Service’s Red Rock Ranger District with $250,000 over the course of five years.
Research is part of a 10-step approach we take to develop our annual destination marketing plan, and it assists in the ongoing evaluation of our programs. It’s vital for us to have that third party viewpoint to keep our work relevant, timely and effective. For further information, feel free to contact Michelle Conway, Director of Marketing, at 928-204-1123.