As National Travel & Tourism Week progresses, the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau is announcing a revolutionary change in how tourism is managed in one of America’s premier travel destinations. The Sedona Sustainable Tourism Plan responds to the challenges posed by high tourism numbers with actions ranging from environmental stewardship of Sedona’s famous red rocks to reducing noise, traffic congestion and overcrowding at popular locations.
The Plan is the result of 18 months of planning by thousands of residents, community groups and visitors.
"Our stunning landscape and amazing cultural amenities inspire people everywhere, including artists, hikers, and those seeking renewal," said Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism President and CEO Jennifer Wesselhoff. "Falling in love with Sedona is easy. The community wants to be sure we aren't loved to death."
Sedona’s 10,000 residents see an average of three million visitors a year. A study by Yavapai College states tourism has an annual economic impact of roughly $1 billion and supports 10,000 area jobs, Wesselhoff said. "We feel challenged by issues such as traffic and overcrowding while at the same time valuing the economic benefit."
The four pillars of the Sustainable Tourism Plan focus on balancing and enhancing residential quality of life, protecting our fragile lands, creating memorable visitor experiences and growing a strong economy.
The Plan calls for:
- Spreading visitation more evenly through the year to reduce crowds, traffic and environmental impacts during peak seasons of spring and fall
- Investing in infrastructure improvements and public transit to reduce congestion
- Sensitizing visitors to the delicate Sedona environment and small-town quality of life
- Encouraging sustainable experiences for tourists, such as carbon footprint reduction and 'voluntourism' environmental maintenance and cleanup projects
- Developing new visitor experiences that emphasize sustainability as a Sedona value
- Deepening engagement with residents to improve understanding of tourism benefits and impacts
- Using technology to reduce traffic and congestion, such as apps that deliver live parking information and "Sedona Secret 7," a website that promotes lesser-visited sites.
"It is all about balance," Wesselhoff said. "By applying sustainability principles to our economy, our quality of life and our visitor experience, we keep tourism strong while assuring Sedona will always be 'The Most Beautiful Place on Earth.'”
Other initiatives will lessen light and noise pollution; increase recycling, water and energy conservation; and improve sustainable business practices at Sedona's hotels and hospitality businesses.
Tourism generates more than 75 percent of the sales tax revenues that pay for Sedona’s public services, according to Sedona Mayor Sandy Moriarty. "But an increase in traffic, short-term rentals and overuse of popular areas makes people feel we are losing something important,” she said.
"Sedona's response is to become a national leader in sustainable tourism," she added.
“This plan is an important step toward finding the balance we all want for Sedona tourism, namely helping us get the right kinds of visitors -- people who respect our beautiful natural environment -- who will participate in activities that minimize the impact on the land and our resources” said Moriarty. “I think this plan strikes a good balance between an ambitious vision and very practical first steps. The sooner we start to implement it, the better.”
The Plan was spearheaded by the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau and recently approved by the City of Sedona City Council. Implementation is funded by a portion of the City’s bed tax.