Sedona Chamber Working on Visitor Education



April 1, 2022



As the City prepares its FY23 budget, the Sedona City Council heard the recommendations of a three-member Council work group last week regarding the Chamber’s budget and activities as the Council’s destination management partner. We listened as Council emphasized the importance of educating visitors to act responsibly and answered many of their questions. I look forward to presenting our FY23 suggestions for professional tourism management at a future meeting.

Our management partnership is critical because tourism is our most significant economic asset and yet it sometimes also presents our greatest challenges, such as traffic and dangers to our environment.

Around the country, smaller outdoors-oriented destinations like Sedona face similar issues. Crowded restaurants and stores, congested trailheads and traffic tie-ups are daily occurrences in Moab, Mammoth Lakes and Park City. National Parks see record numbers of visitors with resulting long lines, traffic jams and strains on infrastructure. In 2020, 90% of online travel searches were for small-town destinations (Coraggio Group).

Domestic travel and the desire for wide-open spaces continue to grow this year due to pent up demand and pandemic-inspired flexible work schedules.

After more than a year of a “marketing pause,” our visitation remains high since anyone can unleash an avalanche of Sedona information produced by private businesses and travelers. It just takes a quick google search or a scroll on social media. That, plus the enormous influx of vacation rentals whose amount of rooms have surpassed those of traditional hotels.

Like Sedona, many destinations are switching to messages about respectful outdoor recreation. For example, the Mammoth Lakes “Hug what You Love” campaign has the tagline “Responsible Travel Means Giving Mother Nature a Big Hug.” These are positive messaging trends, and we can join in, presenting our firm commitment to preserving our environment and quality of life while showing visitors their role in practicing our values.

The Chamber is well-positioned to get this message out effectively to millions who visit or plan to visit Sedona each year. One way is to work with media. Recently, “Outside Online” focused on Sedona, creating a stir among its 680,000 nature-loving, traveling subscribers with the article: “Overtourism has Reached a Dangerous Tipping Point-Am I part of the Problem?” The writer put our current message front and center:

“Every single tourist has to make a choice, whether I am going to be part of the solution or not.”

Because of our national reputation, the writer contacted us, and we guided her to some of our proactive steps, which appeared in the article:

“For visitors, the new Sustainable Tourism Plan means taking responsibility for your actions,” she wrote. “Travelers can take the Sedona Cares Pledge online.”

“There are more tangible ways to take responsibility, like using Sedona’s brand-new shuttle service to the most popular trailheads. Or taking a vacation day to do volunteer work.”

Her conclusion:

“I will be way more cognizant of what I am giving back to the community.”

This spot-on delivery of our message of visitor responsibility is but one example of the possibilities.

We look forward to exploring with Council ideas for shifting the visitor mental picture of Sedona so that guests recognize that overtourism threatens our environment and lifestyle – and that they should be part of the solution. In fact, we can only create true long-term sustainability with our visitors’ participation.

Working together with our Council partners, we look forward to innovative steps like these to educate our visitors to their critical role. Because a balanced, sustainable Sedona is more than a phrase. It’s our mission.

Michelle Conway, Interim President/CEO
Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau