Traffic, Taxes, Jobs all Depend on Visitor Management

August 17, 2018



How much do you spend in Sedona on taxable stuff each week?

Let’s say – and this is probably an overestimate – an average Sedona taxpayer spends $300 weekly on things subject to Sedona’s sales tax. Movie tickets for two; non-food items at the supermarket, such as detergent or batteries; dinner out; a restaurant lunch or prepared food like sandwiches and wings at Basha’s or Whole Foods a few times; a trip to the hardware store.

If you spent $300 a week on taxable items, every week all year, your total City sales tax contribution is just $546. For the entire year.

Now let’s say all 10,000 Sedonans – even the kids – spent $300 a week and paid $546 per year.  This obvious overestimate comes to $5,460,000 in total sales taxes paid, at the very most.

That’s 32% of the City’s estimated FY18 sales tax revenues, at $17 million.

Where does the rest come from, and why is our local tax bill so low?

There is one answer to both questions: sale taxes paid by tourists.

Another tax bonus: unlike Cottonwood and other Arizona cities, we do not have a tax on supermarket food. We also have a little extra in our pockets because we do not have a City property tax.

Even better, we have a City that can afford to support our amazing nonprofits, a cost-effective taxpayer benefit I wrote about last week.  The millions in tax revenues from tourists absorb costs for roads, parks, law enforcement and other services.

Tourism, Taxes, Business and Traffic

A recent news item reports many Sedona businesses say sales are declining this summer as the Chamber & Tourism Bureau paused advertising in Phoenix, our top market for visitors.  At the same time, traffic congestion has reportedly decreased.

You can see the connections:  Less marketing equals less traffic equals fewer visitors equals less business activity.  In addition to the devastating ripple effect of job losses when business fail, a drop in City sales tax could lead to service cuts or higher taxes.

We all see congestion as a concern. We can also see the relationship with our economic health. No one wants traffic; no one wants to see businesses close.

Can the circle be squared?

I believe so.  With a Sustainable Tourism Plan that focuses on regulating traffic flows, attracting visitors who stay longer, preserving the environment and promoting respect for our culture and community, we have an excellent chance to adapt our marketing and management for the benefit of all Sedonans.

Be sure to attend public meetings in September to hear more about sustainable ideas and offer your thoughts.

Keeping it Positive

Sedonans are noticing a negative, even frightening force during our election season:  the death of civility and the rise of attack, attack, attack at any cost.  “Stranger Things” fans understand when I say this force reminds me of the malevolent “Upside Down” world in that popular show.

For me, this poison in our civic life has become an issue as important as any other. It has to stop, and we must unite to reject it. Let’s stay positive and focus on facts!

Sedona Library numbers are HUGE

Finally, my thanks to Virginia Volkman at the Sedona Public Library for pointing out the Library had more than 174,000 visits last year. That’s a lot more than the 17,000 I mentioned last week, and I apologize for the typo!  The much bigger number is just one more reason why we can’t afford to defund this community treasure.  Please vote YES on Home rule!

Did you know you can learn more about how tourism works in Sedona including reading our City contract and reviewing our financial reports?  Just visit

Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO

Listen to what Kegn Moorcroft says about upcoming public Visioning Sessions for the Sustainable Tourism Plan: