Sedona Chamber ‘Truth Squad’ Reports

We’re seeing some dubious claims about the Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau lately.  The Truth Squad takes on misinformation and reports the facts to you!

Truth Squad Report  #4

CLAIM:   A local ’news’ release says the Attorney General’s Office asked for “more time” to “expand” an investigation of a legislator’s complaint about the City/Chamber tourism contract.

REALITY:  This is flat out false.

The AG investigation was automatically terminated when Peoria Sen. Judy Burges withdrew her SB-4817 complaint hours before the Attorney General was scheduled to rule on August 16.

The Attorney General DID NOT request additional time, and by law could not.  The assertion is simply untrue.

Burges filed a new complaint August 15 under a different statue, ARS 25-212.  Under this law, the Attorney General may or may not investigate, at his discretion.  To claim an investigation will occur and be ‘expanded’ is false.

Sedona City Attorney Robert Pickels stated publicly proponents withdrew the original complaint knowing it was “frivolous and would end in a positive outcome for the City.”

“This latest maneuver seems an obvious and desperate attempt to influence the outcome of a local election,” Pickels added.

VERDICT:  FALSE. The Attorney General did NOT request more time to investigate. The opposite occurred. Sen. Burges withdrew her complaint, automatically terminating the investigation.

A new complaint filed by Burges may or may not be investigated. The claim that an investigation will occur and be expanded is false.

Truth Squad Report #3

CLAIM:  Visitors will ‘find’ Sedona even without marketing and promotion.

REALITY: Tourism is unbelievably competitive.  Destinations invest millions in carefully-crafted campaigns to successfully position their brands with discriminating travelers.

Consider:  Scottsdale, one of the nation’s most well-known destinations, still spends $12 million per year to keep tourists engaged, interested and visiting.

Maricopa County, a premiere sports and leisure winter destination, is utilizing Prop 302 to raise $265.8 million over 30 years for tourism promotion.

Las Vegas, perhaps the most famous tourism destination in the world, still spends $300 million every year marketing to potential visitors.

Even New York City spent $40 million in FY17 promoting the Big Apple across the globe.

These destinations understand that visitors do not simply ‘find’ them.  Their brand needs to be front and center with persuasive messages that compete among many choices travelers face. Otherwise, those travelers select destinations that more aggressively seek their business.

VERDICT:  NOT TRUE.  As Northern Arizona’s only certified Destination Marketing and Management Organization, we know destination marketing is critical. We effectively utilize our $2.1 million budget to increase tax revenues, keep local taxes low, help businesses thrive and attract amenities all Sedonans enjoy. With the forthcoming Sustainable Tourism Plan, we’re enhancing our investments in strategies to preserve our environment, encourage respect for our community and culture, and mitigate traffic.

Truth Squad Report #2

CLAIM:   Sedona’s budget is larger per capita than Scottsdale’s or Tucson’s, indicating overspending.

REALITY:   Per capita spending is irrelevant to tourism outcomes, which is why no analysis, audit or financial review of tourism budgets considers it. Sedona’s true tourism ROI is superb:

•    Sedona will receive a projected $16 million in tourism-driven tax revenue this year, more than 7 times the tourism budget of $2.1 million, a 700+ percent ROI!

•    Hotels collect sales tax as well as bed tax, adding up to almost $9 million, more than four times the tourism promotion budget.

•    45 percent of Sedona’s bed tax goes directly to Sedona General Fund. The City projects $2,000,700 in General Fund bed tax revenues in FY19, an increase over FY18.

•    According to the City of Sedona, approximately 70 percent of ALL sales tax revenues are tourism-related.

•    One result is lower city sales taxes for residents, no food tax and no City property tax.

•    Sedonans enjoy world class restaurants, resorts and cultural events rarely found in a community of 10, 400 people.

VERDICT:  MISLEADING.  Sedona’s tourism budgeting and management increases funds available to the community,  adds amenities, keeps sales taxes low and eliminates the need for other taxes.

Truth Squad Report #1: Scottsdale and the Scottsdale Chamber

CLAIM:  Scottsdale allocates ZERO dollars to the Scottsdale Chamber for tourism promotion.

REALITY:   Scottsdale allocates $9.7 million in bed tax dollars to “Experience Scottsdale” a 501 (c) 6 private nonprofit Destination Marketing & Management Organization that promotes local tourism, just like the Sedona Chamber.

Experience Scottsdale WAS part of the Scottsdale Chamber until its mission was expanded to include neighboring Paradise Valley and the Salt River Indian Community. Today all three communities participate in funding.

According to Experience Scottsdale:

“Our primary funding comes from bed-tax revenue collected by Scottsdale…”

“Half of the City’s bed tax is allocated to Experience Scottsdale.”

“The City’s contract with Experience Scottsdale is overseen by the City’s Tourism & Events Department…”

So, in Scottsdale:

Tourism promotion is funded by municipal bed tax, like Sedona? Check!check-mark

check-markTourism is promoted by a locally-based 501 (c) 6 private, nonprofit Destination Marketing & Management Organization (DMMO), like Sedona? Check!

check-markThe nonprofit DMMO has a tourism promotion contract with the City, like Sedona? Check!

The difference?  Technically, Experience Scottsdale is no longer a function of the Scottsdale Chamber.

That’s it.

VERDICT:  Saying Scottsdale does not fund tourism promotion through the Chamber of Commerce is VERY MISLEADING