‘Leave No Trace’ high on surveyed priorities


September 28, 2018


west-sedona-clouds2Insights keep rolling in from Sedona’s fantastic response to Sustainable Tourism surveys. Last week I reviewed some of the results:
• Most Sedona residents and visitors want attractions that promote a “leave no trace” philosophy and tour operations that are locally owned with a low environmental impact.
• More than half support current tourism levels if traffic improves and Sedona adopts sustainable practices.
• Most approve of more parks, cultural amenities, and outdoor recreation to meet tourism demand, but do not want more accommodations or motorized recreation.

We also have results from our businesses, nonprofits, and land management agencies. Two-hundred-sixty-two well-established Sedona businesses – operating for an average of 18 years – completed our email survey. Seventy-five percent have ten or fewer employees; 91 percent hire seasonal employees. Fifty-seven percent of the respondents live in Sedona.

Some results include:
• Businesses want to see a diverse economy with diverse employment and reasonable costs. They are only moderately happy with the current state of all three.
• 56 percent say the amount of tourism in Sedona is “about right.” Twenty-three percent want to see less tourism, virtually tied with those who want to see more (22 percent).
• Businesses agree with residents and visitors that sustainability initiatives should include parks and trails promoting “leave no trace” as well as tours and attractions that are locally-owned and have low environmental impact.
• In addressing sustainability, businesses say they will focus on hiring local staff; reducing water and energy use; cutting waste and expanding recycling.

Land managers at the local, tribal and federal levels list their most significant challenges as:
• Balancing visitor use with protecting natural and cultural resources
• User behavior
• Gaining public support

The agencies say the best solutions are distributing visitors to lower-use areas, collaborating on planning and policies, and educating the community and visitors on ‘leave no trace’ practices.

Our local nonprofits cite their top concerns as the increased number of visitors to Sedona; the resulting traffic problems; housing affordability, and environmental quality. Their preferred solution is to educate visitors and residents on sustainability practices. They recommend festivals, events, and workshops to build a community-wide commitment to environmental preservation.

Open comments show that transportation and traffic congestion remain top concerns.

The recurring theme is an understanding that our unique natural setting defines our quality of life and economic health. All groups see the importance of educating residents and visitors, and asserting responsible stewardship, which includes transportation management.

Sustainable initiatives are an appropriate course for addressing these issues. Mitigating traffic and preserving the environment through management and education are hallmarks of a sustainable tourism approach.

I’m excited by the high level of community participation in our sustainability discussions, and as the Sustainable Tourism Plan enters its final development phase, I encourage you to visit FutureOfSedona.com. You can scroll through survey results and learn more about what it means to build a ‘sustainable tourism’ future for Sedona.

–Jennifer Wesselhoff