September 27, 2019


volunteerism-1000x500Sedona’s fantastic response to getting sustainable tourism off the ground is energizing everyone involved. The enthusiasm is also a perfect backdrop for the Chamber’s annual meeting next month, where we will unveil more ways to achieve the Sustainable Tourism Plan.

But even before the Annual Partner Meeting, we are introducing a new sustainability concept to Sedona: voluntourism.

Voluntourism is a trend revolutionizing the way people travel. Simply put, voluntourism invites visitors to join residents to contribute to the betterment of their travel destination. Creek cleanups and trail maintenance outings are typical voluntourism activities.

For visitors, voluntourism means leaving Sedona just a little better than they found it. For residents, it means improving our quality of life by helping visitors get to know us and our love for our environment. For businesses and nonprofits, it is about organizing and supporting events that help keep Sedona The Most Beautiful Place on Earth.

Travel trends show visitors today seek to become “temporary locals” while experiencing a special destination. Gone are the days when travelers take only a tour and a few pictures. Now, visitors want an authentic experience – getting to know the people, culture and lifestyle of their destination while offsetting any environmental impact of their visit. In Sedona, a robust voluntourism program is a perfect way to respond, giving visitors a hands-on appreciation of what it means to be part of our community.

This week we launched VoluntourismInSedona.com, where residents, visitors, nonprofits and businesses can engage in some of Sedona’s first voluntourism events. The program is just getting started, so while you are signing up, think about organizing a voluntourism event through your business or civic group. We will happily approve your event submission for visitors and other residents to see on the online events calendar at VisitSedona.com! Simply use the category tag ‘Voluntourism’ when entering your event.

Visiting event organizers can practice voluntourism, too. We saw an excellent example at February’s Sedona MTB Festival, where residents joined visiting mountain bikers to assemble new bikes at Posse Grounds Park, which the Festival donated to West Sedona first graders. Bringing visitors and residents together to make Sedona better can be as simple – and as powerful – as that.

The trend toward becoming a “temporary local” fits well with Sedona’s strategy of attracting travelers who respect our emerging green initiatives, lifestyle and environment. We also love helping visitors make person-to-person contact with residents. Evidence shows local-to-visitor communication builds understanding and helps sustainability programs thrive.

The Sedona Tourism Action Team (STAT) may emerge as another source of voluntourism activity. Comprised of business, nonprofit and government representatives, team members are taking the lead in making first-year Sustainable Tourism Plan goals happen. You will hear more as they launch initiatives and reach out for volunteer support.

Sedona’s balanced approach to managing tourism challenges is attracting positive coverage in national media such as the New York Times and PBS. As word spreads of our drive to balance our environment, quality of life, economy and visitor experience, Sedonans will have more opportunities to get involved and help grow a culture of sustainability.

Working together, we are keeping Sedona the Most Beautiful Place on Earth.

–Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO