USTA Events



March 12, 2021

kendafrancis-instagram-1127-ig-17880373937068603Destination management is an experiment. There is no one size fits all for communities to address the unanticipated impacts of tourism to protect quality of life and environment while preserving place and economic viability. For example, to reduce overcrowding in the Big Apple, NYC&Co has successfully created the “Five Boroughs” program to disperse visitors from Manhattan and the city’s center to outer, lesser-known areas such as Brooklyn and the Bronx. Other attempts like that by the City of Venice, Italy, where turnstiles were installed to limit massive tourism resulted in bottlenecks and revolts by visitors and locals who resented being made to “feel like they were living in a theme park,” as one writer put it. We have taken a similar approach to that of NYC&Co with our Sedona’s Secret 7 program and website.

Learning from other’s experiences is why the Sedona Chamber is looking to join the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), an independent organization that establishes and monitors standards for sustainable tourism. GTSC is familiar with us already, having evaluated Sedona according to their 41 destination criteria in 2016. We rated highly on 33 of them, a decent score that also showed significant room for improvement. Their analysis ultimately led us to partner with the City, Arizona State University and you to create the Sedona Sustainable Tourism Plan, Arizona’s first, which guides our strategy today. Sedona will benefit from joining discussions on best practices with destinations like Athens, Greece, Valencia, Spain, and New Zealand (three recent new GSTC members) and having a vote in crafting GSTC policies.

Connecting with GTSC is just one way to elevate our vision and transcend our geographic borders.  Next week, I will (virtually) attend “Destination Capitol Hill,” an annual industry fly-in meeting organized by the U.S. Travel Association. We will meet with Arizona congressional leadership to share economic news and discuss how Congress can support the travel industry via its policymaking.  As a recently re-elected USTA At-Large Board member, I will also participate in a National Parks working group due to Sedona’s status as a Grand Canyon gateway. The group is focused on building and expanding the travel industry’s relationship with the U.S. Department of Interior to strengthen and protect public lands for the future. A regional tourism strategy with the Grand Canyon, the Sedona Verde Valley Tourism Council and its program with National Geographic, our neighbors in Flagstaff and beyond, can disperse visitors during our peak seasons and offer expanded options during slower shoulder periods. It’s all about achieving balance through partnership.

Other local examples of how we attract and interact with our high value visitors include the hosting of the Mountain Bike Festival, usually held in March, now scheduled for November. Festival bikers make a positive impact on Sedona, beyond their millions in direct spending. Last year’s World Ride Movie Night at Posse Grounds Park raised funds to empower women mountain bikers globally. In 2019, organizers led a community bike build at the park and donated the assembled bikes to the first-grade class at West Sedona Elementary. The event raises money for the Verde Valley Cyclists Coalition and the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund. Best of all, bikers “respect the resource, respect other trail users and generally leave a great impression of the mountain bike community,” as their website puts it.

The Sedona International Film Festival (SIFF) has also recently announced its event will be pushed back to mid-June. SIFF brings international media and a stream of famous names to town, uniquely celebrating filmmaking while putting Sedona on center stage among people who love art, culture and travel – once again attracting the high-value and low environmental impact visitors we seek.  Coming at the beginning of our slower summer season, a mid-June SIFF will deliver the multi-million-dollar boost to our local businesses and our City during an off-peak time.

Finally, in an effort to get to know you and at the same time many of Sedona’s beloved trails, I participated in my first “Walk and Talk” hike with the Sedona Red Rock Trails Fund folks on Wednesday, March 4. Moving forward, they will be the first Wednesday of each month with a designated topic and a special guest organization representative. Let’s meet up at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 9. I’ll keep you posted as to which trailhead and the topic – – I am thinking it will be related to sustainability with Earth Day on April 22. I hope to see you then!

–Candace Carr Strauss,