Our Task is to Make Our Way in a New Normal



February 19, 2021

dscf6800sedonalitessunriseMayor Sandy Moriarty said it best at the Chamber/City Council FY22 Planning Meeting on February 4: the world has changed; we are not going back to the old normal. Our task is to make our way in a new normal.

As I start a new journey with you as President/CEO of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau, our mayor’s words define my number one goal: embrace the innovation and creativity born of the pandemic to expand our tourism vision.

COVID-19 has turned tourism on its head – one way to get a different perspective! More than ever, people everywhere can now work from their vacation destinations more easily and acceptably. Many companies are telling employees to expect to work remotely through at least 2022. An exciting sense of mobility is emerging as people grasp that they not only can work from anywhere – they are expected to. How do we make Sedona attractive to these types of workers and their families? One answer is to address our insufficient broadband coverage and sky-high housing costs.

The emerging new world is also calling us to abandon notions of how things have ‘always been done’ and see our region with fresh eyes. Litter is a growing issue that is quite possibly related to pandemic-caused changes in travel patterns. If people adding to our litter problem drive to Sedona on 179 and 89A, how can we use those corridors to educate them? Similarly, shouldn’t we find a way to add trash receptacles, tastefully designed and suitably placed, along our trails?

The new, more collaborative world gives us opportunities to address longer-term issues, too. Challenges such as infrastructure, traffic, housing affordability, and sufficient healthcare are serious weaknesses we have wrestled with for years. Perhaps the time is right to bring in the excellent intellectual resources at NAU and ASU to study our situation and propose new ideas for making Sedona more livable today and in the future. ASU’s contribution to the Sustainable Tourism Plan is an encouraging precedent.

The dawning new normal also invites us to further collaborate with the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, and the Verde Valley to create a regional tourism experience that disperses visitation and mutually enlivens our economies.

Some critical facts are immune from the viral transformation, however. Ours is a tourism-based economy (“whether we like it or not,” as the Mayor says). Though the City released an Economic Diversification Plan just as the pandemic began last February– a plan the Sedona Chamber helped develop – it will take a long time and plenty of resources to realize.

Today, there is no alternative economic base to provide our jobs and most of the local tax revenues that pay for essential services. In Sedona’s case, 10,000 local jobs depend on tourism, and 77% of sales tax revenue is related to visitor spending. Tourism accounts for many delightful amenities that make Sedona unique, such as the Sedona International Film Festival and the Mountain Bike Festival. Without tourism, facilities such as the Sedona Arts Center and the Mary D. Fisher Theater would not be here. Most rural communities our size cannot hope to acquire the resorts, high-quality dining and world-class art galleries we enjoy thanks to a well-developed tourism sector.

As City Manager Justin Clifton says, tourism is our bread and butter. That does not mean we are stuck with the same old ways of managing tourism. I’m extremely excited to introduce fresh ideas and to hear yours. I also believe that kindness – the recognition that we all struggle and we all seek to be heard – must inform all our exchanges, both public and private. As I’ve heard people say, that’s the Sedona way.

Next week, let’s continue the conversation on my initial goals. In the meantime, look for this article on Facebook and add your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you!

                                                                                                –Candace Carr Strauss,