Tourism FAQ’s

1. What is a Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau and how are you structured?
2. How many members does the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau have?
3. How is the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau funded?
4. What does the “Tourism Bureau” part of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau do?
5. What is a DMO?
6. What is the bed tax?
7. Why does the Chamber & Tourism Bureau receive a portion of the City bed tax?
8. Can I see a copy of the contract between the City and the Chamber?
9. Why does the Chamber Tourism Bureau get money from the City of Sedona?
10. Is the City required to spend bed tax revenues on tourism?
11. How do the bed tax revenues flow? Do the funds go directly to the Chamber?
12. Does the City Council determine the Sedona bed tax rate?
13. Does the City Council have input in how Bed Tax funds are used by the Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau?
14. Does the Chamber & Tourism Bureau receive 100 percent of the bed tax revenues?
15. What is the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau’s budget?
16. How do you promote Sedona?
17. How does the Chamber benefit Sedona residents?
18. Is the Chamber responsive to the community?
19. How do you gauge success?
20. Can I see the SCC&TB quarterly tourism reports to the City?
21. Can I view the SCC&TB federal tax return?
22. Can I see a copy of the Chamber’s annual reviews/audits?
23. Why is Tourism Important to Sedona?
24. What are the Sedona Chamber’s top sustainability initiatives?

 


1. What is a Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau and how are you structured?

Chambers of Commerce are private, nonprofit, member organizations made up of business owners and non-profit organizations.  The SCC&TB is a 501(c) 6 non-profit, whose mission is “To serve the community by making Sedona the best place to live, work, play and visit.” We succeed by helping Sedona businesses succeed.

The SCC&TB has approximately 850 members. Their businesses range from lodging, restaurants and galleries to IT, retail and sole-proprietorships.  65% of their member businesses are located within the Sedona city limits.  All members pay annual dues and fees that fund the Chamber.

The SCC&TB is guided and overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors composed of local Chamber members and elected by the Chamber membership.

The Board employs a President/CEO who implements the policies established by the Board, administers Chamber programs and supervises the Chamber’s budget.

The Tourism Bureau is a separate division of the Chamber of Commerce which implements the tourism management contract with the City of Sedona.  The Tourism Bureau markets Sedona as a destination manages and manages tourism’s many complex impacts.

As Northern Arizona’s only certified designated Destination Management and Marketing Organization, the Sedona Chamber has provided tourism marketing services to the City since the 1990’s.

The SCC&TB is one of only 216 accredited organizations in the US and one of only five in Arizona

2.  How many members does the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau have?

Chamber membership is constantly changing as more businesses join.  Currently, there are approximately 850 members, 65 percent of whom operate in the City of Sedona.

Accommodations 82
Arts & Culture 46
Associates 17
Associations & Organizations 74
Attractions & Entertainment 43
Business & Financial Services 44
Churches & Places of Worship 16
Community & Professional Services 87
Construction & Sub-Contractors 26
Dining & Drinks 71
Marketing & Media 37
Medical & Healthcare 32
Outdoor Recreation 23
Personal & Spiritual Enrichment 86
Real Estate 44
Retail Shopping 65
Tours & Sightseeing 33
Transportation 5
Travel Services 9
Weddings & Venues 6

 

3. How is the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau funded?

The Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Bureau are separate divisions and perform distinct functions.

The Chamber of Commerce function, which is to assist local businesses to grow, is funded strictly by dues and fees paid by members. Membership belong voluntarily; businesses are not required to join the Chamber of Commerce.  Absolutely NO public money is used for Chamber of Commerce member functions and we receive NO funding from the City of Sedona or Sedona taxpayers to fulfill those programs.

The Tourism Bureau is a separate function funded by a portion of the bed tax levied by the City of Sedona. The bed tax is paid by visitors who stay at lodging facilities within the city limits, not Sedona residents. Under a contract with the City of Sedona, the Tourism Bureau manages tourism in alignment with the Council-adopted Sedona Sustainable Tourism Plan.

4. What does the “Tourism Bureau” part of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau do?

The Tourism Bureau function of the SCC&TB takes the lead in managing our biggest industry, which has a $1-billion-dollar annual impact on our economy and is directly responsible for approximately 10,000 local jobs.

As a nationally recognized Destination Management and Marketing Organization (DMO), certified by Destinations International, the SCC&TB promoted and managed tourism under a contract with the City since the 1990’s.  In partnership and under the direction of the City Council, we distribute information to visitors, travel agents, tour operators, media and meeting planners to help them understand all that Sedona has to offer.

As Sedona has become more popular around the world, we led the way in addressing tourism challenges by initiating a community-wide drive for the Sedona Sustainable Tourism Plan, an Arizona first, approved by the Sedona City Council in 2019.

By adopting a tourism management approach that balances our quality of life, environment, the quality of our economy and visitor experience, we are placing sustainability at the heart of tourism development and management.

5.  What is a DMO?

A destination marketing organization (DMO) or destination management and marketing organization (DMMO) or convention and visitors bureau (CVB) markets a town, city, region, or country and manages its tourism industry.

The Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau is nationally accredited by Destinations International as the only certified DMO in Northern Arizona, and one of only five accredited organizations in the state.

We manage all marketing of Sedona as a destination and adopt strategies to balance the beneficial effects of tourism with the challenge of possibly being “loved to death.”  Effective marketing attracts the “right visitor” at the “right time,” drawing people seeking adventure, beauty and serenity who also respect our fragile environment and small-town quality of life. The annual economic impact of tourism in Sedona is estimated at $1 billion from roughly 3 million visitors.

In 2019, we demonstrated an adaptive tourism management approach by leading the community response to the challenges of traffic and seasonal overcrowding.  Partnering with residents, visitors, the City of Sedona, ASU and the Nichols Tourism Group, we developed a Sustainable Tourism Plan to help balance our quality of life and unique community character with the economic demands of our tourism-based economy.

Just like the SCC&TB, most DMOs are publicly funded, usually through a bed tax.  Sedona’s annual budget allocation for tourism management is significantly less than the national average.

  •  Smaller and mid-sized DMO such as Sedona receive approximately 90% of their total funding from public sources
  • More than 87% reported receiving hotel room tax revenue, by far the leading source of public investment
  • Of 246 DMOs surveyed, the 2015 average annual budget was $3.39 million. Sedona’s FY20 budget is $2.49 million.
  • By far, the most frequent DMO organizational structure is 501(c) (6) – 60% of all reporting DMOs

Source: Destination Marketing Association International’s 2015 Organizational & Financial Profile Study

6. What is the bed tax?

The bed tax is levied by the City of Sedona on guests staying at lodging facilities within the city limits.  Arizona State law permits cities to create this tax to raise funds for tourism-related purposes.  State law also permits cities to enter into contracts with nonprofits such as Chambers of Commerce to put bed tax funds to work marketing and managing local tourism.

That’s what is happening in Sedona. The City of Sedona has a contract with the Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau to use a portion of bed tax revenue to manage and market Sedona as tourism destination.  As the region’s only certified Destination Management and Marketing Organization (DMO), the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau is nationally recognized as an expert in tourism marketing and management.

Currently, the bed tax rate is 3.5 percent. This is in addition to the 3.5 percent sales tax hotels pay on gross revenues.

The practical effect is that visitors to Sedona provide our tourism management budget and contribute (through sales tax) to the city’s General Fund, which pays for police, parks, transportation and other vital services Sedonans use every day.

7. Why does the Chamber & Tourism Bureau receive a portion of the City bed tax?

The bed tax was created specifically to market Sedona as a destination without taxing Sedona residents to do so.  Only visitors staying at hotels in Sedona pay the bed tax. There is NO direct tax on Sedona residents to pay for tourism management.

State law permits cities to create this tax to raise funds for tourism-related purposes.  State law also permits cities to enter into contracts with nonprofits such as Chambers of Commerce to put bed tax funds to work marketing and managing local tourism.

Typically, cities around Arizona (and the U.S.) do exactly that.  They use bed taxes to raise tourism marketing and management funds and have contracts with nonprofits, often Chambers of Commerce, to promote and manage tourism.

As a certified Destination Marketing and Management Organization, the only one in Northern Arizona, the SCC&TB is the leading regional expert in tourism promotion and management.

8. Can I see a copy of the contract between the City and the Chamber?

Absolutely!  The entire document is here, complete with performance measures and reporting requirements.

9. Why does the Chamber Tourism Bureau get money from the City of Sedona?

It is well-established in Arizona and around the United States that contracting with a qualified, certified DMO is a cost-effective and productive way to utilize bed tax dollars to promote and manage tourism.

Most cities, especially smaller cities like Sedona, don’t have the staff expertise to promote and manage tourism. They also recognize the cost effectiveness of contracting the service to a qualified agency rather than creating a city “Tourism Department.”

State law acknowledges this as well, expressly permitting cites to enter into tourism marketing and management contracts with nonprofits.  Many Arizona cities do so, often contracting with their local Chambers of Commerce.

Sedona gets a win-win from the City’s contract with the Chamber.  Not only is the Chamber a 501c (6) nonprofit eligible under state law to enter into a tourism contract, we are also a certified Destination Management and Marketing Organization (DMO).  The SCC&TB is one of only five certified DMOs in the state. Having deep roots in Sedona is a big plus. We have been advocating for balanced economic growth and tourism management for more than 65 years. We have had a tourism management partnership with the Sedona City Council since the 1990’s.

10. Is the City required to spend bed tax revenues on tourism?

Yes. State law allows cities to levy a bed tax for the specific purpose of the promotion of tourism, which can include (but is not limited to) cultural exhibits and sporting events; contracts with nonprofits for the promotion and management of tourism; expenditures to develop, improve or operate tourism-related facilities and assist in the planning of tourism attraction and facilities.

11. How do the bed tax revenues flow? Do the funds go directly to the Chamber?

The bed tax paid by visitors staying at Sedona lodging facilities goes to the state first, which then distributes the revenue to the City of Sedona, which distributes the revenue to the Chamber for tourism marketing and management.

12. Does the City Council determine the Sedona bed tax rate?

Yes. By law, the bed tax rate is determined by the Sedona City Council. The current rate is 3.5 percent.

It was raised from 3 percent to 3.5 percent in for the express purpose of attracting visitors to Sedona. At that time, city staff, elected officials, business community representatives, and the Chamber reviewed and recommended the increase together, and it was approved by the City Council.

13. Does the City Council have input in how Bed Tax funds are used by the Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau?

Yes. The contract requires the City Council and the Chamber Board to collaborate each January in a joint work session to set specific goals and objectives for tourism management.

As part of the City budget process each spring, the Chamber presents a draft budget and full scope of work (Destination Services Plan) to the Council based on this collaboration. The budget includes detailed performance metrics.

The City Council reviews and approves the Chamber’s annual Destination Services Plan and proposed budget prior to allocating bed tax revenues to fund the Chamber’s management and marketing activities.

The SCC&TB delivers public quarterly progress reports to the Council and makes a minimum of two presentations at Council meetings.

Beginning in FY20, the Council-approved Sedona Sustainable Tourism Plan provides broad guidance for annual budget development.

14. Does the Chamber & Tourism Bureau receive 100 percent of the bed tax revenues?

No. The allocation of bed tax for tourism promotion and management is defined by city ordinance. In July 2019, the City Council approved changing the policy in the city ordinance related to bed tax use, as follows:

  • 5% of the bed tax, which increased to 3.5% from 3% in 2014, is devoted solely to the promotion of tourism.
  • 55% of all revenue generated from the combined 3.5% bed tax rate is devoted to tourism management.
  • The requirement that bed tax funds be allocated to a contracted destination marketing organization shall be removed.

Per the ordinance, the Council has never authorized an allocation to the SCC&TB of more than 55% of total bed tax revenues.

In 2019, the City Council determined that future SCC&TB tourism management budgets will be built form the ‘ground up’ rather than being based on a specific percentage of collected bed tax revenue, and the budget should address advancement of the main components of the Sedona Sustainable Tourism Plan.

15. What is the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau’s budget?

The Chamber of Commerce is a private nonprofit funded through by fees paid by members.  There is NO tax money involved in the Chamber of Commerce functions, budget or operations.

The Tourism Bureau is a division of the Chamber of Commerce and is funded by a portion of the Sedona bed tax.

In FY20, the Tourism Bureau budget, as reviewed and approved by the Sedona City Council in June 2019 is $2.49 million.

You can see the entire budget memo here.

16. How do you promote Sedona?

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Effective destination marketing and management is based on a platform of destination visioning and tourism planning tied to the objectives of the Sustainable Tourism Plan.

Positioning Sedona as a premier destination requires balancing the brand awareness Sedona has achieved, the quality of life of Sedona residents, our natural environment, the quality of the local economy and the experience we offer our visitors.

distinguished by built-in opportunities, challenges and the continual need for innovation. At the SCC&TB, we have a track record of working with our industry partners to build upon past successes, while simultaneously embracing change.

Marketing, sales, communications and community development initiatives that help manage tourism’s impact help us achieve the balance envisioned by the Sustainable Tourism Plan and fulfill the SCC&TB mission:  “To serve the community by making Sedona the best place to live, work, play and visit.”

We seek to ensure that the sales and marketing platform engage, inspire and educate potential visitors, attracting the right visitors (those who will stay longer and respect Sedona’s sustainability initiatives, for example) at the right times (drawing visitors during the ‘need seasons’ of summer and winter, for example).  We strive for breakthrough communications utilizing the most influential and powerful media channels to enhance Sedona’s image and energize potential visitors.

We market Sedona in Phoenix only during the summer and winter and promote mainly to the overnight markets of Southern California (summer) and Chicago (winter), targeting demographics with above-average household income to encourage increased length of stay.

Further details can be found in the FY20 Destination Services Plan.

17. How does the Chamber benefit Sedona residents?

The Chamber’s approximately 850 members are your neighbors – Chamber businesses employ Sedonans and are owned by local residents.  Their success is the community’s success.

The Chamber partners with nonprofits around the community to make Sedona a better place to live, work, play and visit.  For example, our partnership with the Sedona Red Rocks Trail ahs raised more than $100,000 from Sedona businesses to help preserve and maintain our essential trail system.

The Chamber is a partner in bringing many popular events to Sedona, such as Run Sedona, the Mountain Bike Festival, the Sedona International Film Festival, and the summer Star Party, and more. You can see all Chamber-initiated events here.

The Chamber’s management of the local tourism industry benefits all Sedonans economically.  A 2018 study by the Yavapai College Regional Economic Development Center shows tourism is a one-billion-dollar industry directly responsible for approximately 10,000 local jobs.  Sedona-based tourism businesses purchased $110.1 million in goods from local suppliers, who in turn generate 1,097 jobs. Workers employed in the tourism industry spend $107.3 million locally.

A City of Sedona study released in 2019 shows tourism-related businesses contribute 77 percent of the sales tax revenue collected by the City each year, which pays for parks, police, streets and other services Sedonans use every day.

The Chamber-led  Sustainable Tourism Plan is a direct response to community concerns about tourism impacts in such areas as traffic and overcrowding, and sets the stage for a long-term sustainable future for tourism in Sedona – one in which the economy and visitor experience is balanced with the quality of life of local residents and the stewardship of our natural environment.

18. Is the Chamber responsive to the community?

The benefit of having a local Chamber of Commerce that is also a local Destination Management and Marketing Organization is that we are very sensitive to the needs of Sedona’s economy and the characteristics that underpin it – such as our small-town quality of life and unmatched environmental resources.  We pride ourselves on listening to Sedona’s business owners and residents to continually develop programs and effect change that keep Sedona the best place to live, work, play and visit.

Review our Vision, Mission and Values.

As part of our community outreach, we invite you to join Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO and Chamber Board members monthly at the Chamber Administrative Office at 45 Sunset Drive for an informal coffee chat on any Chamber and Tourism Bureau-related issues of interest to you.

19. How do you gauge success?

Since the beginning of our FY14 contract term with the City of Sedona, we have seen increases in occupancy and average daily rate – two metrics that are commonly used nationwide in the tourism industry.  But we don’t stop there.

In review of tax data from the City of Sedona (thru December 2017*), we also saw:

  •  A 19% increase in bed tax revenues YTD FY18 over FY17
  • $9,004,343 additional monies spent on lodging YTD FY18 over FY17
  • An 8% increase in sales tax revenues YTD FY18 over FY17

While lodging metrics are critically important to consider for a healthy tourism economy, in Fiscal Year 20 (July 2019– June 2020), at the City Council’s direction, we are acting to achieve the Four Pillars of the Council-approved Sustainable Tourism Plan: Quality of Life, Stewardship of the Natural Environment, Quality of the Economy and the Visitor Experience.

The Sustainable Tourism Plan is a holistic approach generated by residents, business, nonprofits, government agencies and visitors that defines actions to achieve sustainably community-wide and establishes benchmarks to measure progress.

We will continue to use research as our foundation for the SCC&TB’s strategies.  Recent research efforts indicated the following, which appropriately mirrors our marketing strategies:

  •  75% of those who receive our official Experience Sedona Guide visit Sedona within 15 months.
  • 98% of visitors believe that Sedona is an excellent (68%) or good (30%) place to visit compared to other options.
  • Spending per day by overnight visitors has increased from $500 (in 2015) to $552 (in 2016) to $618 (in 2017) – indicating that we are successfully attracting a more affluent audience who will stay in Sedona longer and spend more at our businesses, enhancing our economy.

*Data provided by City of Sedona Finance Department and based on most recent December 2017 monthly report.

If you’d like to review the quarterly reports that we provide to the City of Sedona as part of our contract, you can find them on the Sedona Chamber website under Latest Tourism Bureau Reports.

20. Can I see the SCC&TB quarterly tourism reports to the City?

Yes. Our quarterly reports to the City of Sedona and much more useful data can be found at our Report and Research page.

21. Can I view the SCC&TB federal tax return?

Yes. For your convenience, we’ve posted the last three years’ tax returns here.

22. Can I see a copy of the Chamber’s annual reviews/audits?

Yes. You will find the last three years of our financial audits/reviews here. The SCC&TB is currently undergoing an audit for FY18 and will post the document here when available.

23.  Why is Tourism Important to Sedona?

Approximately 3 million annual visitors make their escape to our slice of southwestern heaven. Once they arrive, Sedonans welcome them at hotels, restaurants, events, galleries, state parks, spas, golf courses, healing centers, movie theaters, grocery stores, gas stations and more.

10,000 are residents are directly employed by in the tourism industry, which generates $1 billion in economic activity every year – by far Sedona’s largest economic sector.

Sales taxes collected from visitors account for 77% of the City’s annual total sales tax revenues, which pay for street improvements and maintenance, police services, community parks, local events and more. These funds also support valuable organizations Sedonans depend on such as the Community Center, Food Bank, Humane Society, Meals on Wheels, Public Library and Sedona Recycles.

The benefits of tourism ripple throughout the community as contractors, plumbers, welders, electricians, architects and landscapers are employed for upkeep, renovations and growth of businesses and facilities that support tourism. Grocery stores, hardware stores and convenience stores keep their shelves also benefit from the spending of the thousands of Sedonans employed in the tourism industry or whose living depends on supporting the tourism industry.

When visitors fall in love with Sedona enough to relocate, they invest in land or property, employing real estate professionals and increasing the value of area land.

These concentric rings of rippling benefits are imperative to Sedona’s economy and culture.

24. What are the Sedona Chamber’s top sustainability initiatives?

First and foremost, the Sedona Sustainable Tourism Plan commits the community as well as the SCC&TB to balancing our economic and quality of life needs with our environment and the experience we offer visitors.  The Plan is easy to read. You can review the dozens of sustainability initiatives and the many community groups now engaged in making sustainability happen in Sedona

Click on the link to see a few of the SCC&TB programs we operate internally which are having a positive impact.

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