Sedona can be grateful for Travel and Tourism in 2020 and today



April 30, 2021

oak creekNational Travel and Tourism Week is May 2 through 8 and as a board member of the US Travel Association, I am proud the “ Power of Travel” (this year’s theme) is helping restore America’s communities and rebuild our workforce –  especially right here in Sedona.

The Big Picture

In 2019, travel and tourism generated $1.1 trillion in annual spending, supporting 17 million jobs, producing $277 billion in payroll income and $180 billion in tax revenues for all levels of government.

In Sedona, travel accounts for 77% of the City’s sales tax revenues, covering police, parks and other critical services and eliminating the need for a city-levied property tax. Close to 10,000 local jobs are tied to tourism, and the annual economic impact is more than $1 billion.

The USTA estimates travel spending dropped more than $500 billion in 2020. Arizona’s $23.5 billion tourism sector dropped 35%. Yet Sedona, as often happens, isn’t following national or event statewide trends. While the statewide unemployment rate is 6.7%, virtually unchanged since last fall, Yavapai County’s unemployment rate is presently 5.3%, down two points since October.  Many communities continue to struggle, but the City of Sedona has reported record sales tax and bed tax revenues for the first 7 months of its fiscal year.

Why is Sedona so fortunate?

With surrounding states on lockdown, our in-state visitors, for whom Sedona is an easily accessible and well-known outdoor recreation destination, sought solace. In 2020, 53% of  Sedona visitors originated within Arizona, compared to only 40% in 2019.

The power of travel and tourism means our restaurants are busy, tour companies are doing well, shops are open, and events such as the Sedona International Film Festival (June) and the Mountain Bike Festival (November) are coming back. Tourism continues to spur local business investment, like the new Shorebird restaurant, the Mole at Arabella, a new location for Elote Cafe, and the beautiful renovations at the Poco Diablo resort, all enhancing our quality of life.

Through it all, Sustainability Blossoms

The Sustainable Tourism Plan, Council-endorsed and community-supported, is engaging more than 20 civic and government groups. We’re seeing a rise in certified-sustainable businesses, new EV charging and water bottle refill stations around town, volunteers with Keep Sedona Beautiful, the Oak Creek Watershed Council and others keeping our natural areas as pristine as possible, and much more. In March, the chamber and 50 Sedona businesses contributed $100,000 to the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund for upkeep of our priceless trails. Most of those business contributions would not have been possible without tourism spending.

Tourism is part of Sedona’s DNA

Dare I ask how many of us discovered Sedona as visitors?  Sustainability – balancing a tourism-based  economy with the environment and resident quality of life – is the key to managing it.

While Sedona is experiencing growing pains  – particularly traffic  – solutions are bearing fruit. The City’s Sedona in Motion (SIM) projects improved Uptown traffic flow and parking. The Tlaquepaque pedestrian underpass, Forest Road connection and Uptown parking garage are moving forward. The City’s new Transit Manager is focused on launching public transit to address congestion.

Ironically, nothing moves quickly in the transportation world, so patience is required.

Saluting Travel and Tourism

While we face challenges, there is much to celebrate regarding the positive impact of travel and tourism in Sedona.  As we work with the Council to jointly plan our FY22 tourism management strategy, you can be sure we focus on balanced economic recovery, improving our quality of life, educating visitors on responsible visitation, and being dedicated stewards of our environment.

-Candace Carr Strauss,