By Tommy Acosta
If you make less than $150,000 and thought of visiting Sedona you are not the target of a recently proposed marketing effort by the Sedona Chamber of Commerce, focused on luring visitors that that are affluent.
A request by the chamber for the city to release $225,000 from its marketing contingency plan to be used for destination marketing targeting people with money, was torpedoed at the Sedona City Council meeting of January 24.
Council members rejected the request in a 4-3 vote, with council members Holly Poog, Melissa Dunn, Brian Fultz and Kathy Kinsella voting against the request and council members Scott Jablow, Pete Furman and Jessica Williamson voting in favor.
The chamber had hoped to use the contingency funds to bring tourists to Sedona that are well heeled and willing to spend scads of money rather than focusing marketing efforts on “day trippers” who come to the city to hike or spend little more than a day here exploring, off-roading, browsing the UpTown shops and spending little cash while clogging up the roads and making it difficult for locals to get around town.
At the meeting, the chamber and business owners lamented the lack of tourism the town is now experiencing, believing that the city-stifled marketing effort of the chamber over recent years has led to a downturn, with many business owners stating they are suffering losses of 25 percent or more in revenue.
Walking a tightrope between Sedona business representatives clamoring for more advertising, vocal residents against tourism that are frustrated with increased traffic in the city, and skeptical council members, Sedona Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Michele Conway proposed a possible remedy that would strategically target “appropriate” travelers by utilizing focused-digital media that highlights other aspects of the Sedona lure, like art, galleries and culture.
Sedona Mayor Scott Jablow added dining as one of Sedona’s allures and voiced his support for the chamber’s request.
“I agree that we have to do marketing,” he said. “This is the time to do it.”
Councilman Brian Fultz felt it would be a waste of money allocating the requested funds to help businesses.
“I am struggling with the justification that we are in need,” he stated. “I am not seeing a compelling reason why we have to do something right now. We can’t market to the point of trying to save every struggling business.”
Conway emphasized diversifying destination marketing to focus on the affluent would help Sedona.
“Sedona needs to attract the right visitors,” she said, pleading with the council to support her request.
“It is our strong recommendation that we resume destination marketing,” she said to a less-than-sympathetic council.
The majority of council members did not see where the need for more advertising resides or that bringing more visitors, whether affluent or not, would do anything to alleviate the congestion in town and overcrowding on the roads.
“I’ll tell you what we want,” Councilwoman Jessica Williamson said, most likely referring to herself, locals, and fellow council members. “What we really want is the number of people coming to Sedona to be cut way down, way, way down. And maybe we want these rich people who are coming from wherever they come, to come. But that’s not reality. Those other people are going to come.”
She cast doubt that the effort to target the affluent would in any way help alleviate the traffic and its negative impact.
“I think we are just going to get more day trippers,” she said.
Despite questioning whether spending the extra cash to lure affluent visitors to Sedona would help alleviate the overcrowding, the councilwoman voted in favor of the chamber’s request, as previously noted.
Tommy Throws in His ‘Two-Cents’ Even Though He is Not Supposed to Editorialize in a Supposedly Objective News Article
Ahem… Councilwoman Williamson is absolutely right! Any kind of marketing effort, whether it’s trying to attract people that make more than $150,000 or paupers who want to experience Sedona A’ la carte, is going to bring in more tourists — a good thing for the businesses of Sedona.
The fact is lodging is down. Businesses are panicking. People are not coming to Sedona like they once were and they are not spending as much.
Other tourist destinations across the country and overseas are fighting, competing as if their economic lives depend on it while Sedona appears to fiddle as Rome burns, apparently failing to see the urgency obvious to the chamber and the suffering businesses.
Unfortunately, for those locals whom traffic is the bane of their lives, we need the “other people” to come, regardless if it takes a half hour longer to get from one end of town to the other or having to make reservations for their favorite restaurants.
Council members Jablow, Williamson and Furman should be commended for voting yes, and considering the apparent “dire” situation many of our smaller businesses, hotels and resorts in the community are experiencing.
As a small business owner and resident in this town my margin depends on other Sedona businesses doing well.
That’s why I totally support the Sedona Chamber of Commerce. They are doing a great job promoting our city. Our city council should be 100 percent behind them as well.
Oh, and further, don’t knock the day trippers and those who enjoy browsing and shopping in the UpTown stores because they shovel a load of moolah into city coffers too.
What else? Hmm? What was it community activist and Chamber Governing Board member Al Comello said?
“I don’t know if this advertising campaign will make a difference,” Comello said. “I don’t really care. I just want to know we are doing something for the economy, Sedona, and making a difference.”
Way to go, Al. You got my vote!
Sorry, residents vote, not businesses. I used to LOVE coming home to Sedona. In the past 10 years I dread coming in 179 fearing I would hit traffic before the village and take over an hour for a 15 minute drive.
I don’t want to be a prisoner in my home on weekends and holidays so some business or hotel can get rich on my discomfort.
Traffic has been better the past couple of years due to high gas prices and the financial downturn. That’s not changing anytime soon.
As usual Mary C you dont have a clue. All this traffic is directly from the stupid Air B&B law that took all control out of local governments hands! Just another of Doug Duceys legacy that will last a lifetime!
Ducey signed it, he didn’t write it. The governor doesn’t write bills, the legislator does. And at the time many cities lobbied for it. And now are against it.
Only 4 cities in all of Arizona didnt allow short term rentals. The bottom line is he put his stamp of approval on it and it cant be overturned. What a terrible written Bill he signed to become law! Hard to believe local governments cant control something so sensitive and impactful as this law. He owns it! Screwed the citizens, screwed local governments!
But those lobbies, sure got paid well, and now we all pay the price.
Tommy, just a heads up. It was the policy for the over 10 years to target couples making over $150,000 a year. And if it hasnt been leaked yet, the Sedona Hotel and Lodging Industry, wasn’t happy with the city, and they are dumping money into advertising out of their pockets.
Maybe Sedona should hang up a sign that reads “Poor People Not Allowed!”
I got your vote huh? I’m not running for anything but I’ll take it. I don’t know about business being down 50%, but it is definitely softening, slowing and with the cost of doing business going through the roof they need the revenue coming from active tourism to be profitable.
The city sales and bed tax are quite healthy, but that doesn’t mean businesses are profitable. It just means tourists are paying more for everything and there’s more beds for tourists to sleep in called vacation rentals. We are paying more also, but it’s just 3 1/2% in sales tax on purchases inside the city limits. It’s all math.
But in the end, it’s about people: workers, business owners, residents, and of course, city government, and organizations like the chamber. From my point of view, we’re all on the same team, we are living in a successful tourist town that is a wonderful place to visit and as a consequence, as I see it, is also a wonderful place to live.
Our visitors pay for almost an all the city operating bills and we as residents pay for very little. The substantial amenities in this community of only 9,700 comes at a price. We have to share this world with our visitors (our guests). That’s our reality. And, it seems like a good deal to me. I like living in Sedona, heck, I love living in Sedona!
I am starting to believe that the new city mayor and council are just tone deaf to business.
Perhaps they want business to fail so then when the sky is falling go to the chamber on bended knee and give the experts the freedom to do the proper marketing and keep the city the best place to live and do business.
I am happy that the City Council rejected an attempt by the Chamber to extract the available contingency funding from the City on a poorly formed Destination Marketing program. To date the business community and Chamber have depended on anecdotal reports that the economic conditions in the City are “dire” or on the Chamber comparisons of the past month to tax revenues from the same month a year ago. The local $1 Billion dollar Sedona economy needs to be looked at much more carefully to understand its size and growth. I have shared the following analysis (link below) on NextDoor that shows the long term economic growth compared to the inflation rate over similar periods.
It is much more useful to compare 12-month running totals or running averages than simply depending on anecdotal reports or monthly changes. In fact, lodging income in Sedona has grown 40% annually over the past 7 years. While lodging also includes Short Term Rentals, it is important to note that that traditional lodging has substantially increased daily rates in the past few years when looking at the Chamber numbers. Overall this analysis shows that the local economy may have slowed slightly over the past few months, but it is significantly larger than 2019, even when factoring in inflation.
It also appears that the current council has split into a business friendly group and those that are looking more carefully at resident needs. It is refreshing to see that a more contemplative review of items before the Council are being taken.
I may be more than a little outside the box thinking here, but I thought the city owned the property across from the reclamation station on 89A outside the city limits. I have thought it might be a good idea to sit down with business owners, council members, chamber staff and start a conversation as to whether the property is a potential for development.
Seems to me it would make a great bicycle track for competitions – quite, popular, profitable with local businesses providing vendors.. That could also be a place for outside arts and crafts events.
With a younger set of visitors, it may draw people with families to spend time in and around Sedona.
What I feel has been missing the thirty-five plus years I have lived in the
Verde Valley is families that are not just drive-byes on their way to the Grand Canyon or south for a ball game ro gold tournament.
Some may argue that the cost for ADOT to add ramps on either side may not be cost effective, well, these are the guys who won a national award for working with the community on SR179.
To target wealthy visitors seems a bit prejudiced against people who might want to see and experience the beauty of Sedona, the red rocks and surrounding amenities of the Verde Valley.
Is it: Sedona, A Haven for the 1%? Or, is it the place that people who own businesses, chamber staff, teachers, first responders, retirees, realtors, the metaphysical and all others first came here to experience?
If it’s more money that you want, why not try to find more ways to get more people to spend more money without the appearance that Sedona is only for people who can afford to spend $1000 a day to feel welcomed?
Want to lower the prices tourists pay for food and lodging and trinkets? – Lower the rent.
BTW: This rich attitude existed when the first vice-mayor of the first council was asked should there be affordable housing built in Sedona and the answer was, “That’s what Cottonwood and Camp Verde are for.”
Businesses will do what is necessary to stay in business, if the city will not support marketing to upscale visitors; They must look to Phoenix and day visitors to fill the gap; you get what you pay for. More 30 year olds with with ATV……
Polaris advertises Sedona to ATV owners, and the state advertises Sedona. Steve is pushing fear on locals.
Some Restaurants are slammed, Colt Grill always busy, Javelina Cantina doing great. People don’t need more trinkets, and you can’t force people to waste their income given the state of the world. Yes some businesses may go out of business, that’s the free market. If you can’t make it in Sedona with all the fame we have and tourists coming here, that’s a reflection of your business, and or the state of the economy and general fear of a recession. Sedona was fine before Steve Segner walked the Chamber in to get corporate welfare from the city.
More silly junk from Steve. Avoid him everywhere.