Sedona preps for spring breakers


February 22, 2019


spring break flowersTomorrow’s 10 a.m. kickoff of the 25th Sedona International Film Festival features If Beale Street Could Talk at the Mary D. Fischer Theatre, selected as a ‘2018 Top Ten’ by the American Film Institute; and Bathtubs Over Broadway at the Sedona Performing Arts Center, the award-winner for best-directed documentary at Tribeca.

The Film Festival is a nine-day celebration – a treasured cultural amenity that brings Sedonans and visitors together and delivers a $3.9 million shot in the arm to our economy.

This year, the Festival is sandwiched between two important pieces of news.

First, new research by the Yavapai College Regional Economic Development Center shows tourism’s economic benefit continues to grow, topping $1 billion last year. The Sedona Tourism Economic Contribution Analysis, 2018 also affirms tourism is our largest employment sector by far, with 10,000 jobs linked to the industry.

Tourism’s direct annual impact, such as total sales and employee income, now stands at $242 million. Tourism generates $105.9 million in federal, state and local taxes.

Researchers looked beyond direct impacts, with fascinating results. They found tourism businesses purchase $100.1 million in goods and services from Sedona-based suppliers, who in turn provide 1,097 local jobs with an annual payroll of $27 million.

Just as impressive, tourism-industry workers spend $107.3 million of their earnings locally, causing Sedona businesses to add 962 jobs that paid $30 million in wages.

In the world of tourism management, this is both good news and further evidence that we must have sustainability practices in place to assure we aren’t ‘loved to death’ as tourism surges nationally and around the world.

I’m excited to report we are putting the finishing touches on the Sustainable Tourism Plan with the City Council. This game-changer represents 18 months of study with ideas from thousands of Sedonans, businesses and visitors. In about eight weeks, you will see a sophisticated, flexible management tool addressing the four pillars of Sedona tourism: our environment, quality of life, economic well-being, and visitor experience at

The second news item is the annual spring break influx coming in the first part of March. The Chamber does not market Sedona as a spring break destination; none of our advertising resources target spring-break students and families. Nevertheless, with four large universities and Maricopa County’s massive community college system just a few hours away, we have long been a popular spring break destination.

Not only Arizona families and college students escape to beautiful Sedona during spring break. Every year, we try to better understand visitor flows during spring break, so we compile a list of top cities for visitor origin and research their spring break timeframes. Our research has been distributed to businesses and the city, so they can prepare with extra staff and strategically placed CSAs to keep traffic flowing.

Our strategy for the peak seasons of spring and fall is to manage the visitors who are here, rather than marketing for more to visit. Management tactics include encouraging visitors to walk rather than drive, reminding them to walk gently on the land, to visit lesser known gems, and respect the land and residential neighborhoods. Spring break starts in Sedona, Santa Fe, many cities in TX on March 11, so expect an influx starting March 8th. You can view the full spring break calendar at

You can expect March and April to be a very busy this year. We ask that Sedonans practice their patience during this time (which will most likely run through Easter) and help us welcome the visitors who keep our community strong. Fortunately for residents, visitors, and our economy, Sedona will soon have sustainability strategies in place to help keep Sedona “The Most Beautiful Place on Earth.”

–Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO