Sedona Businesses Say Sustainability is their Top Issue. Here’s What That Means.



March 19, 2021


Our 2021 membership survey is complete. The top issue? Sustainability.  52% of businesses rate it ‘very important’ and 34% call it ‘important.’ The only other issue topping 50% as ‘very important,’is the lack of affordable housing:  51% ‘very important’ and 20%  ‘important.’

In our view, affordable housing is a subset of sustainability; achieving it is part of our Sustainable Tourism Plan, after all. Places scoring high in livability have housing choices their workers can afford. When people live and raise families where they work, they have a stake in the future of their hometown and naturally support policies that balance the economy, environment and quality of life. We need more of that.

COVID Leaves its Mark 

Businesses may be prioritizing sustainability due to the pandemic, which showed us our need to connect with  family and friends, colleagues and employees, nature and the great outdoors.

Research shows travelers feel the same. They want wide open spaces to reconnect with the natural world, and they want a deeper personal affinity with their destination. Voluntourism is predicted to bloom in the post-COVID era. Travelers are eager to be part of the environmental solution and we already have plans to engage them.

Since the Sustainable Tourism Plan was adopted by the City Council in 2018, Sedona has made excellent progress. Later this spring, we will post a tactic-by-tactic report, and I can tell you already – community progress has been impressive.

This spring, we are reaching out to travelers and teaching ways to recreate responsibly and protect the natural assets that make us The Most Beautiful Place on Earth. The Sedona Cares Pledge aligns visitors with sustainable behavior; the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace show them how to be enjoy the outdoors while causing no harm, and our voluntourism program will return soon, building personal connections locals and travelers recognize as vital to our wellbeing.

Sedona: Even During Pandemic, a Destination Like No Other

Tourism-dependent economies around the US were decimated by the pandemic; Arizona alone suffered a 35% decline in domestic and international spending last year.  But not Sedona. After a brutal spring, average daily room rates at our hotels sprang back to 2019 levels by mid-June. The City reports revenues in the first six months of FY21 are the strongest on record.

Why did this happen?  Our strong presence in Phoenix and easy access from the Greater Phoenix were the key.  Phoenicians thought of Sedona first for a quick getaway from being cooped up in an urban center with little to no air service and limited vacation options. We sorely needed this economic sugar rush, but it was unplanned and caused problems, such as a very noticeable increase in traffic, parking congestion and litter. It was on object lesson in why tourism management is critical.

Tougher, Wiser, Kinder and More Confident

Our unity in responding to the COVID was amazing. Just look at what Sedona did:

> Neighbors and employers pivoted quickly to support suddenly unemployed workers.
> The chamber found ways to help businesses who were themselves reinventing service and delivery models and learning to operate with reduced capacity literally overnight.
> Employers went all out to protect employees and customers with stringent cleaning routines.
> Almost everyone found ways to work-from-home (hello, Zoom!).
> Hundreds of businesses signed on to Sedona | Safe.Clean.Ready and educated visitors and local customers on CDC protocols using posters and flyers.
> Mayor Moriarty’s mandatory mask proclamation and the ‘Mask Up Sedona’ campaign were clear successes.

This success should boost our confidence that we can achieve our ambitious sustainability goals. Sustainability is a shared mission and a top priority of our member businesses. As we emerge from the pandemic, Sedonans are even more prepared to work together with our visitors to take care of her.


–Candace Carr Strauss,