Sustainable Tourism in Sedona Grows


April 12, 2019


cover_of_stp-1000x400The results are in! Event producers from Over the Edge said last month’s Sedona MTB Festival generated $6.5 million in direct local spending, $2.6 million in lodging alone. In a win for sustainable tourism as 3,360 of the 4,000 participants stayed two nights or longer, a key sustainability indicator.

In another hallmark of sustainable tourism, bikers showed environmental awareness by staying off wet trails. They also donated bicycles to the entire first grade of West Sedona School, leaving Sedona better than they found it.

Other destinations are not as far-sighted as Sedona in acting for a sustainable future. The Sustainable Tourism Plan and Sedona in Motion initiatives act now, while traffic congestion (to cite one issue) is not at ‘overtourism’ levels. In an over tourism environment, problems such as overcrowding, noise and environmental degradation not addressed in a forceful or timely manner, becoming year-round rather than seasonal issues and much more difficult, if not impossible, to solve.

In Hawaii, tourism is at a “tipping point” due to lack of leadership and strategic vision, according to the Economic Research Organization at the University of Hawaii. “Hawaii tourism is at risk,” with rising visitor numbers straining resident attitudes and environmental limits. It may take Hawaii ten years to formulate a sustainable plan, according to a report co-author.

Barcelona residents are objecting to “hoards of unruly visitors” and large crowds. Last fall, the mayor proposed tourism caps and banning large groups during peak times at the iconic La Boqueria market. But Barcelona is finding it difficult to make specific policies at this late stage, and the City has taken no official action.

In Chile, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee says historic Machu Picchu is “in danger” and recommends a daily limit of 2,500 people to ensure sustainability. “It’s chaos,” said a Machu Picchu guide quoted by the Chicago Tribune. In what appears to be a too-little, too-late move, the Chilean government has capped daily visitors at 5,940, more than double the UNESCO recommendation.

In Kyoto, the crush of tourists has topped 50 million every year since 2013, and the city is plagued by “half-naked hikers, trespassing travelers” and people carving names into the famous bamboo groves of Arashiyama, according to Japanese media. Warnings against littering and cycling while under the influence have done little. The City’s tourism board is experimenting with measures to ease congestion, but clearly, Kyoto is playing catch up.

The Philippines’ Boracay Island, famous for its white beaches, shut down entirely for more than six months in 2018 when overdevelopment made streets impassable and forced sewage releases into the ocean and onto shores. The government has adopted strict new development rules and even prohibited some businesses from reopening.

It’s a salute to Sedona that relatively early in the game, we have united to produce a Sustainable Tourism Plan and transportation improvements that place our environment, our economy, our visitors and our quality of life first. Properly implemented by a committed community, our sustainable practices will be a model for destinations around the globe and keep Sedona “the most beautiful place on Earth” for generations to come.

Visit to read the Plan and to get involved.

–Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO