The Value of the Uptown Visitor Center



April 5, 2024


The Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau’s Visitor Center is not only a Sedona institution but also a landmark due to its prime location. Since 1956, it has been an integral part of our visitor’s experience. Located at 331 Forest Road in Uptown Sedona, it is usually the first stop visitors make when they arrive. Open seven days a week, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the Visitor Center serves approximately 150,000 visitors per year — and ranks as the second busiest center in Arizona next to the Grand Canyon.

Our Visitor Center is staffed with friendly and well-versed volunteers. Last year, they donated nearly 6,500 hours of their time, which is valued over $200,000. While focusing on visitor engagement, they suggest places to go such as hiking, shopping, dining, where to stay and what to explore. Not only is the personal interaction a plus, but their recommendations also help to generate a positive economic impact for our businesses.

To keep their finger on the pulse, our volunteers attend familiarization (FAM) tours of area businesses, participate in activities, dine and shop locally so that they can share their own experiences. Statistics show that regardless of how you communicate with a guest, the more individualized attention and response that can be provided helps them feel valued and make good choices.

As our volunteers interact with visitors, we can gather important marketing data such as demographics, where they are traveling from, their interests, places they want to stay, and other key factors as we monitor the highs and lows of tourism season. As one-on-one conversations take place, our staff also fields thousands of phone conversations, answers emails and sends a fee-based custom visitor packet with brochures, maps and other goodies to those who are thinking about traveling to our area.

The visitor center also provides news and information to the public at large and our residents on important topics such as road conditions and closures, weather, guidance on campgrounds, RV sites and dispersed camping, hiking recommendations, transportation on both the Verde Shuttle and Sedona Shuttle, parking and more!

As the conversation surrounding many visitors’ centers focus on the need for a physical location, the discussion of mobile phone usage, apps and kiosk displays is at the forefront. Our Visitor Center’s primary focus is on human interaction. We have used kiosks and iPads in the past but found our visitors didn’t use them as much. However, QR codes appear on all of our maps. Visitor centers should always be mindful of evolving travel trends and adjust their operations as needed.

What may work for one tourism destination doesn’t always work for another. Recently a couple from Israel inquired about camping sites. While they had the GPS locations, and researched pertinent information online, they still wanted a personal and professional recommendation from us directly. They said that they just needed an in-person affirmation to what they researched. Despite technology, there is something to be said about human connection.

The Uptown Visitor Center is also a hub for visitor education on important principles such as Leave No Trace. The volunteers are trained and well-versed to guide our visitors to treat Sedona with respect, as well as to be mindful with water and necessary items to ensure a fun and safe experience.

These are just a few examples to showcase the value of the Uptown Visitor Center. We invite you to learn more and join our next conversation with City Council on April 9, where we will present a proposal for next fiscal year’s budget for visitor center management. I hope to see you there and thank you in advance for your support of the Visitor Center operations.

Michelle Conway Kostecki, President/CEO

Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau