The Sustainable Tourism Plan balances what locals cherish most – our environment, our quality of life, the quality of our economy and the experience we offer our visitors.
With the Plan starting to take effect, the breadth of Sedona’s sustainability movement is evident – it is nothing less than the end of tourism as we know it. It’s a dramatic phrase, but appropriate.
That’s because our drive for balance aligns with a change in the way people travel. The days when visitors snap a few pictures and experience Sedona mostly behind a windshield are over. Today, more travelers seek a deeper experience called “temporary localhood.” They are looking for sharable encounters resonating with authenticity, such as a festival, a visit with local artists or farmers, or an original dining experience. Yes, Sedona’s awe-inspiring natural setting is like no place on Earth, but savvy travelers know the most memorable journeys include connecting with people and culture.
This travel trend blends perfectly with sustainable tourism. New initiatives such as voluntourism and sustainability-themed events bring residents and travelers together – the kind of connection visitors say they want.
This week at the Annual Partner Meeting, we unveiled the Sedona Cares Pledge at SedonaCares.com. It is another way to connect travelers with our sustainable values. Visitors and locals can promise to keep trails clean, respect the quiet of our neighborhoods, limit water and energy use, and practice other responsible behaviors. The Pledge is 100% online and sharable – which brings us to social media.
Now an integral part of travel, visitors use social media to share their Sedona adventure with like-minded online friends and followers. This helps us spread the word about authentic, sustainable Sedona experiences through – rather than just to – our visitors, reaching kindred spirits primed to embrace our message.
Already, our 144,000 Facebook and 75,000 Instagram fans spend $13.7 million in Sedona annually. Open-minded, eager for experience and environmentally conscious, they stay longer – 2.9 days per visit – and spend more than the average visitor. Social media represents a powerful force-multiplier in our new era of sustainable tourism, and the Pledge is one way we are spreading our vital message.
Changes in tourism management that align with today’s more purposeful travel help Sedona focus our message without narrowing it. After all, travelers seeking a more meaningful connection include foodies, spiritual seekers, seasoned hikers, celestial photographers, off-road ramblers, conferees inspired to relocate, adventurers, techies open to new ways of living and working, spa aficionados, art lovers and collectors, or people with a little bit of all of these.
As sustainable strategies take root, I believe we will naturally become even more open to curious, respectful travelers, sharing our culture, lifestyle and passion for Sedona, thereby enriching our own lives.
For Sedonans, “The End of Tourism as We Know It” means our values take center stage as we welcome the discerning, seeking traveler, educate those who may need a nudge and discover our kinship with travelers who hear the call of the real Sedona.
An exciting journey has begun! We welcome you to take the pledge at SedonaCares.com.
–Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO