The Right Kind of Marketing Can Address Tourism Challenges



January 27, 2023



How do you feel about Colorado?  What about Utah?  Can you make a mental distinction between these neighboring states even though they share a border, a tourism economy and the Rocky Mountains? You can, of course.

Establishing those distinctions is one function of branding and destination marketing – defining the characteristics of a place and communicating it so effectively that a mental image and sense of place arises, seemingly unbidden.

However, whether you visit Colorado or Utah might depend on travel deals, restaurant vouchers, resort discounts, or other inducements. That’s advertising, not marketing.

At the SCC&TB, we plan and execute Sedona’s destination management. That’s the “Tourism Bureau” part of our name. Marketing has always been a big part of the job. As negative tourism impacts such as overcrowding and traffic affected Sedona and many smaller destinations around the West a few years ago, we adapted to meet the challenge. We brought in experts, conducted surveys, consulted with the City Council, and observed how other destinations managed. One result is the Sustainable Tourism Plan, which includes tactics for balancing economic need with our environment and semi-rural quality of life.

Another result was a shift in marketing. Sedonans recognize that while tourism is our only major economic driver, we need the right kind of visitors to make it work – people who are sensitive to our fragile ecosystem, value our small-town quality of life, and are mindful enough to seek out and support locally-owned businesses while doing their part to keep Sedona pristine.

We began a marketing approach appealing to that visitor – presenting Sedona as a place where people derive meaning from living here, treasuring our unique landscape and natural quiet. We were polite but firm — we want visitors who embrace those values and stand ready to “Respect Red Rock Country,” as we put it, which is still the theme we communicate to visitors as they arrive.

Advertising Sedona, which is not what we do, is different from marketing. Advertising is all about local businesses promoting discounts and other enticements, hoping people choose them over their competitors.

Given all that, why do some Sedonans think that marketing an authentic Sedona message about our values and expectations is deleterious to our quality of life? And why would anyone believe the SCC&TB,  Sedona’s certified Destination Management Organization working in partnership with elected representatives, would willingly degrade the qualities which also make Sedona the region’s leading economic engine?

We don’t do that, of course. We never have. And we never will.

People in public life frequently express the frustration that “what should be obvious often is not.” We have more than 60 years of service advocating for Sedona’s prosperity, charity and community. It is in our DNA to plan tourism management and marketing to benefit all Sedonans, one reason we partner with the city’s elected representatives on annual goals.

Nevertheless, misinformation can get out there and can unfairly affect public perception. For example, since Sedona ‘paused’ destination marketing in recent years to alleviate tourism-related problems, we have not been able to focus on the “right” visitor.  The result is a rise in OHV misuse, trash on the trails, heedless day trippers, and traffic jams.

The SCC&TB is now looking at ways to utilize strategic marketing and communications that will positively impact businesses and will always strive to provide the best opportunities for local businesses to succeed with a myriad of supporting workshops and events.


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