The Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau Watching Economic Conditions
THIS ARTICLE APPEARS IN THE RED ROCK NEWS
September 16, 2022
Are you a Sedona area nonprofit? If so, you will not want to miss this meeting! The Sedona Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Community Foundation of Sedona are working to support area nonprofits. On September 23 from 8 – 9:30 a.m. there will be a great workshop for nonprofits interested in “Mastering the Art & Science of Effective Grant Writing.” Meet and network with other nonprofits. RSVP to attend at SedonaChamberEvents.com.
If all economic forecasters were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion.
– George Bernard Shaw.
They say a good economic analysis will tell you where you are, and the best will show how you got there, but no one can be certain where you are going.
After decades of representing Sedona’s business community and as the region’s certified Destination Marketing Organization, we have learned that local economies are sensitive to a broad range of regional, national and international events. Often the events are unpredictable (think COVID) or unexpected (the rise in gas prices). The local impact can be immediate or delayed, mild or severe.
Major world events can produce either immediate or delayed economic effects. With the anniversary of 9/11 still fresh, we can recall that after processing the shock and horror of that awful day, we faced a national economic downturn almost immediately. On a slower scale, the political fallout of the February invasion of Ukraine is affecting Russia’s natural gas deliveries to Europe, triggering changes in European energy policies as winter approaches. This has already affected American businesses that have European markets, and specific stock market sectors. Over time, we will see where the ripples carry us.
As we prepare for the SCC&TB’s Annual Partner Meeting next month, a glance back at FY22 illustrates how large-scale economic movement sent its ripples our way – and how FY23 is shaping up.
Sedona’s tourism industry was affected last year by changes in travel patterns, lodging choices and the type of visitors we saw. The post-COVID world brought a flood of short-stay visitors from the Phoenix area, eager for the outdoors while reluctant to travel far. The result was an increase of more than 47 percent in the average daily rate visitors paid across Sedona lodging properties, and the city reporting sales and bed tax revenues up 18 and 25 percent compared to the previous year.
But this unplanned surge also produced more traffic, crowding, trash and damage to the trails. We responded with a pause on marketing; a revived Sedona Trail Keepers program; an expanded relationship with Leave No Trace; and, other visitor education strategies.
Interestingly, the occupancy rate for Sedona lodging continued to lag in FY22, slipping down 3.2% compared to pre-COVID 2019. Now, at the end of summer, we see signs of slowing – anecdotally, in the data (average daily rate went down in July compared to 2021) and in the economic forecast, where the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association predicts occupancy in Sedona will be flat next summer and could even decline in 2024.
As we get deeper into the fiscal year, it is critical to stay on alert regarding economic conditions and how they relate to tourism management. Sustainability is critical. As we learned last year, we can get out of balance quickly when the unexpected occurs. We need guests who arrive already attuned to respectful recreation and a community that practices lofty standards of stewardship to serve as examples to our guests.
Programmatically, we are working with our partners to spread visitors around the region and encourage the use of Sedona’s increasingly effective transit system. The Chamber Board and I believe opportunities will arise this year encouraging a fresh look at managing tourism sustainably, benefitting the entire community.
Sedona’s commitment to sustainability – which balances our economy, lifestyle, environment and visitor needs – is different from economic forecasts in one essential respect: sustainable tourism policies offer a clear path to get us where we want to go.
–Michelle Conway, President/CEO
Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau