By Tommy Acosta
Sedona, AZ – Sedona is a ghost town. Has anyone noticed? Restaurant parking lots are almost empty. Few people are walking around Uptown. Few cars on the road. Shops are empty. Even the supermarkets are at about a third of normal capacity.
Well, those complaining about the traffic and too many tourists finally got what they wanted. At the expense of Sedona’s economic health, that is.
As a small business owner in this town, I find the Sedona City Council’s decision to stop the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau from going forward with destination marketing, one of the most stupid things it has ever done.
Caving into those complaining about traffic, ATV’s, and AirB&Bs, to name a few of them, the Council cut the lifeline of economic stability, for business owners, in half.
And now we have a hefty slate of council candidates of which none have expressed a desire to allow the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau to do their job, which is to bring tourists and commerce to our little town.
It seems there is a united front at work that wants to destroy Sedona for those of us who work and live here.
Businesses are complaining that they have never seen it so dead in Sedona during this time of the year.
Some restaurants are down 40, 50 percent from last year. No one eating out. No one is shopping. Tour companies are sending out their jeeps with two or three tourists in them, at most.
Sedona is dying on the vine. We can sense it. Something is terribly wrong.
Having gone to the last mayoral candidate forum at the Sedona performing Arts Center last week I was less than impressed as only one candidate expressed a desire to work with the Chamber to attract “quality” visitors and tourists, while the rest of them said nothing about supporting the Chamber.
Recently, the council once again cut the Chamber’s budget and hobbled them by not allowing destination marketing.
Great. Now we have another dwindled season to look forward to as people find other places to visit and spend their money than Sedona.
So, then what? Will Sedona now have to impose sales and real estate taxes to make up for the loss of income from the lodging, service and hospitality industries?
Everywhere I go the feeling in the business community is morose. There is a sense of doom in the air as our number of visitors shrinks every day.
Those living comfortably in Sedona who are retired and don’t have to depend on a job to make ends meet can now be happy that traffic has finally diminished, though the possibility that their favorite restaurants may no longer be there to serve them, now exists.
Let’s hope those newly elected find reason, and act to save Sedona before it’s too late. We need to unshackle the hands of the Chamber and let them get back to marketing our city and bringing more tourists to Sedona.
We need our Chamber Commerce and Tourism Bureau strong and healthy if we wish to survive the coming economic crisis.
And for those of you still trying to tie down the Chamber, you reap what you sow.
Well Tommy it is that time of your, we are always slow up to Labor Day….But I agree being out and about it does seam much slower. I think those Phoenix day trippers head farther North now? Been last 10 years less monsoons, and high temps.
Im not sure what you ment by caving in to ATV and Air B&Bs? City’s hands are tied by state law on Air B&B, thats all the falt of our state government and Ducey. Sedona never allowed short term rentals.
As for ATVs thats the forest service who isnt even for permitting them to control how many are in our national forest at a time. And we cant stop them driving through town as 89a and 179 are state roads.
For the complainers? Well they will always complain, its so boring and redundant! Cry about traffic, cry about the city addressing it. Complain about new hotels, but they dont care we have twice as many Air B&B rooms than hotels.
So enjoy the slow period, and when you want to know when it will pick up, ask anyone who works for Pink. They have been catering to visitors for many years they even know how many weeks spring break lasts.
Sorry to hear your business is slow and others. It has to be hard with 2 years of covid, and all the BS that the cry babies and whiners and complainers brought to the table.
Excellent Reply. The biggest factor is the gas price courtesy of Joe.
Enjoy the heat and welcome monsoons.
Joe doesn’t control gas prices.
And have you checked other countries’ prices?
Biden’s failed policies has caused massive inflation and shortages. Too bad we can’t see what is really going on in other countries due to the heavy censorship and propagandized media – otherwise we’d all know about the fires in Italy, the protests in Greece, the protests in Paris, the fall of the government in Sri Lanka, the uprising of farmers in the Netherlands and on and on….
We are where we are because of the lies coming out of the White House, and the stolen 2020 election.
I have lived here for 20 years and tourism is always slow in the summer. Have you considered COVID? Have you considered the price of gas? The chamber and their marketing can’t change these 2 factors.
I’ve lived here for over 20 years and it has never been this slow. How to fix:
Step one: Get rid of Biden. Decertify the 2020 election and address the election fraud that put a demented old man in the White House.
Step two: End the Ukraine war. Investigate Hunter Biden and his ties to Ukraine. Stop sending guns and money. Get someone from the state department to slow the roll of war with Russia.
Step 3: Close our borders. Stop the invasion coming across both borders and heavily restrict all visas from areas known to be unfriendly to the United States.
Step 4: Arrest anyone who destroys property during protests. Clear up the direct link between ANTIFA, BLM and the White House.Release the J6 political prisoners. Enforce the law.
Step 5: Now that oil and nuclear has been declared “green energies” open up pipelines and refineries and make energy available. Stop the push of electric vehicles – we simply do not have the lithium for the batteries and mining it causes massive destruction. Stop spraying chemtrails that is causing a world-wide drought.
Step 6: Relase known information about new energies to companies who can develop it.
Step 7. Put America first. Honor our veterans. Help the hungry and the homeless. Reject Soros and his band of criminals pushing for a one-world government, a one-world currency and the “you will own nothing and like it” agenda. Get the US out of the UN.
Love thy neighbor.
Stock up. Get cash on hand. Things are not getting better and they won’t get better until obvious problems are addressed
My family came up here from Phoenix to visit me. They are staying at my timeshare at the Sedona Summit Resort. We had reservations yesterday to have dinner at Cucina Rustica. From my prior experience of backed up traffic from West Sedona to the Village of Oak Creek, I recommended we all leave a half hour earlier in order to get there on time. I was very surprised to see no traffic at all and only a few tables of people eating at the restaurant. I also work at at very busy hotel in Cottonwood and it hadn’t been this slow in a very long time, except during the pandemic. This is very unusual. Something needs to be done to help all of us, including local businesses without hurting anyone.
The pandemic is still going on…
Yes, but only for the vaccinated.
Dear Tommy, as a small business owner for most of my adult life, my heart goes out to you. July and August are typically slow in Sedona; but I think between Covid and gasoline prices, the hit is harder this year. The residents of Sedona are polarized, and I can see and understand both sides. If you don’t support local business, you will inevitably lose it. I can also sympathize with any resident that has a “party rental property” next door which the owner does not “police “. I was a tourist/renter for years before I purchased my little place in the VOC. I was respectful of the property I rented, and I respected the neighbors. This is how I was raised. While I don’t rent my Sedona home, I have been a residential landlord and am currently a commercial landlord. My lease agreements always have non-disturbance clauses which I enforce. Problem rental properties are actually problem landlords. There have to be serious consequences for tenants if they become a nuisance of any sort, and those consequences have to be enforced. If that were the “norm” in Sedona, people would not have too many viable complaints about tourists, and businesses would benefit from ongoing tourist trade. There is a healthy way for all to coexist. But it takes cooperation and dedication on everyone’s part. If we could elect people to office that understand this, and everyone was willing to do their part, then many of our tourist vs. resident problems would diminish greatly. I don’t believe that most Sedonans are anti-business. I think they are willing to meet anyone half way if they can have what they want, ie “quiet enjoyment” of their homes. And businesses, through the Chamber Of Commerce especially, should be able to advertise anywhere and anytime they want to. If all parties would take responsibility, and work to create the environment we all essentially want, I am convinced that Sedona can accommodate everyone’s needs.
Give me a break. You’ve got a little slowdown — maybe people that live here can catch their breath for just a bit. And I wouldn’t be so quick to blame the pullback of chamber advertising and labeling it “stupid”. Sedona still gets plenty of press.
The economy is sucking wind. Inflation is eating a hole in everyone’s wallet. And once people figured covid was “gone” (which it never has been), they spent money — and ran up credit card debt — like crazy. Now the chickens gave come home to roost.
Maybe this gives the community a little time to work on a more sustainable path going forward. You may welcome the business the hordes and the army of ATVs bring, but overuse is destroying the environment that makes Sedona special.
I certainly hope the town doesn’t just cave to business interests in total worship of the almighty dollar. Balance, please.
No affordable housing and now no money to be made at restaurants as there empty good job
So well said, not to mention that without tourists we lose the funding Sedona needs to maintain and improve the infrastructure! Sedona’s main industry IS tourism. Don’t kill the source of revenue! The Council needs to fully fund the marketing push immediately.
I agree with you Tommy, that we should not hamper the Chamber of Commerce… That work is a lifeline and not just financially. Those of us that live in paradise and a spiritual Mecca have some responsibility to share that with the world.
The other factor is “deferred travel”. During the 2+ years of Covid controls and changes, a lot of people cancel their vacations due to the uncertainty. In particular, we heard about deferred international travel.
our family participates in hospitality industry, as well as a local spa business. After the initial lockdown, the businesses we own and workouts stayed steadily busy through normal downtime. There was no break after the busy season it just stayed busy! Through the summer and into the next season.
Now we are finally facing a slow season, and the deferred Covid travel has happened. What we are seeing would be a normal slow season, yes affected by high gas prices, new strains of Covid fears, and the Chamber not promoting our destination for going in 2 (3?) years.
It is time for a really strong review of who we want to be in the world as a community… I like to refer to the mission statement posted in City Hall.
Well … we’re all entitled to our own opinions, I guess. Personally, as a full time resident … it feels good to be able to actually get seated in a restaurant, or find a parking place at a trailhead, or it not taking an hour and 20 minutes to get from the Village to the Y. I see your perspective, you being a business owner. I’d rather Sedona NOT be a tourist destination. People are not going to stop coming to Sedona. The word is out there because the Chamber did it’s destination marketing. It’s time to step back like it is now. I’m seeing more large tourist buses again. Give it a little time.
Tommy: The blame for huge reduction in tourist traffic cannot be blamed on the residents who have complained about traffic. First I wish to say I am not bothered by the traffic when it is heavy but, I am retired and can go about my shopping or any appointments at better times. I live in Uptown right in the thick of it all on Smith & Mesquite for 41 years so have seen it all. The slower tourist traffic is not due to lack of advertising but, the constant talk, talk, talk of a deep recession beginning and frightening people. If anyone is to blame for it all then blame the Democrats who right now own EVERYTHING. The excessive spending and shutting down of our energy including now all offshore drilling is causing high inflation hence many people cannot afford to travel by air or car. Airports are in chaos due to vaccine mandates and pilots and other staff quitting rather than risk the extreme side effects of the vaccines. Also airlines cut many flights during the pandemic and now don’t have enough staff. Even though Sedona cut the Chamber advertising it is still receiving millions of dollars in free advertising in reality shows, tv and radio talk shows, magazine articles, plus the travel shows the Chamber participates in, the 40,000 emails a month it sends out etc, etc. One example of free advertising is the reality show “Little People Big World” which is raging in high ratings. Four of the stars of the show planned a trip to Arizona and SEDONA and it was all they talked about before arriving. We saw them boarding their jeep and taking their tour. That show goes around the world and is repeated a number of times. I saw the original and two repeats. Also I was told but, not confirmed it, Prescott and the Arizona State Board of Tourism advertises days trips to Sedona. Sedona is discussed on tv shows in foreign countries. The increase in tourism has been growing since Justin Clifton became our City Manager and that was when the Chamber started receiving millions of dollars. We were set on a course, deliberately by City Staff and Council, of Sedona “no longer being a residential town but, a resort town and that is where our focus is and will be” as told to me over the phone by Justin Clifton. The City encourages more and more businesses to come here and then of course those owners demand the Chamber advertise to help their business. The latest Community Focus Area report for Uptown stated that Uptown would be renamed “The Resort Area of Sedona” and encouraged hotels be built by Oak Creek. So the P&Z voted in a zone change from residential to commercial for the Creekside Resort off Schnebly.
This will cause a lot more traffic at the roundabout despite the City’s claim otherwise, Uptown is at the tipping point for traffic, it cannot sustain more yet the Council voted for a transit hub right in Uptown as if it were the only section of Sedona with shops etc. So Tommy, it is not the fault of residents wanting a curb on all this unnecessary push for more businesses and more tourists. Uptown used to have a nice friendly atmosphere but, sadly no more. The median has destroyed Uptown and the reason there were too many jay walkers was greatly exaggerated. I know I used to drive through Uptown on a longer trip home every day as I enjoyed it. Not any more, Tourists jay walk across Forest right against the red light all the time and when they receive a toot on the horn they are very nasty. The attitude of tourists has changed according to Uptown business owners and workers have told me including lodging workers in West Sedona. So again Tommy, this article is long but necessary to state us residents are NOT TO BLAME for the reduction in current tourism. Joan Shannon
315 Smith Road Sedona
Excellent article by Joan. She has drilled down to the many cores of the issue.
If the chamber was properly funded and run by its members, like the majority of CofC are in the US, the City can defund it 100% and the residents would be pleased. Unfortunately, in Sedona, the Chamber has been spoiled by the multi-million dollar hand outs by the short thinking Council.
Then, the Chamber could advertise for the benefit of its members as a normal chamber does, without doing odd jobs for the City.
Trust the residents will realize this come August 2.
Seems like you think the sky is falling. Didn’t people report an hour and 45 minute wait on 179 last weekend? Yes this is the slower season and it will doubtless get busy again in the fall with all the attendant problems. I really doubt business is going down the tubes and we should not support your call for more marketing.
Feels like summers pre COVID to me. High gas prices, inflation, combined with the end of COVID “revenge tourism” maybe contributing factors? I’m sure it will be busier again in the fall.
Sedona is still heavily visible on social media, probably offsets any “pause” in Chamber marketing.
Mr. Acosta, The sky is not falling. It’s just beastly hot, thanks to climate change. And gas prices are still high. And we residents do deserve a little break, since this is the off-season. Just calm down and maybe invest in a writing class. An “editor” comes across best by seeing all sides of a situation. You are obviously worried about yourself, and it comes through loud and clear. Your writing is always so black and white, it becomes ridiculous. Try being an arbiter of opinions, not the most opinionated guy in town!
You need to take your own advice!
Good article Tommy. I am also a small business owner here in Sedona and it is crickets. I can make it through the Summer months and I’m hoping September will be better but I am worried. Americans saved a lot of money, and have now spent most of what they saved throughout this pandemic. Inflation is raging. It’s a very complicated situation.
2021 was a record year for tax collection for the City but I think this was a one-off. Personally, I don’t need business to be that busy and there were just too many people in our small town. Having said that, unless business picks up, I simply won’t survive.
It will take time to analyze the data on why we are so slow. For a small business owner, time is usually not our friend. I know many in the Chamber and they are good people with good intentions. They have my full support.
I’ve been to many cities in the U.S. and it surprises me that people complain about how fast Sedona has grown. In my experience here, growth is very slow compared to many other towns and cities. In my humble opinion, I don’t think we need more growth, but rather carefully manage what we have and just stay the course. Bigger is not always better.
A short note on the upcoming Home Rule vote. Everyone should educate themselves on this from the Government website. It’s complicated and takes a lot of time. Don’t listen to what others tell you. Do the work. If Home Rule doesn’t pass I believe it will be disastrous and I will immediately make plans to relocate.
Tommy, your rant and the lack of reasoning that underpins it is EXACTLY the reason Sedona is in the political, environmental and economic mess we’re in.
1. As many others have pointed out, tourism is slow for many reasons, none of which have to do with marketing. We are still in a world-wide pandemic, the economy is being slowed to fight inflation, high prices (because of inflation) are dampening spending, travel world-wide is in a snafu related to labor shortages, climate change means we are not the oasis we used to be in summer, and summer is always a slow tourism time in Sedona.
2. The fact that Sedona is almost solely dependent on tourism and that the city has over-invested in tourism, and fostered over-building of resorts through poor planning and poorly-conducted zoning/property administration means that when downturns or corrections come — as they inevitably do in a capitalistic economy — there are too many operators for too few consumers. There is a rule in investing: diversify in order to minimize losses during market corrections. The city of Sedona has failed to do this. Market forces will always affect weaker businesses, and market corrections mean some business owners will go out of business. This makes space for other, new businesses to move in.
3. It is not the government’s job to market your business, nor to ensure that your business or any other business doesn’t fail. It is, in fact, IMPROPER for the government to market your business or to otherwise ensure that your business will succeed. There are plenty of entrepreneurs waiting in the wings who might well be able to succeed where you have failed, and could introduce other types of businesses that would help stabilize our economy, cushion against downturns and provide services useful to residents.
4. These many years and many millions spent by the city to prop-up the tourism industry has created barriers, such as higher-than-normal commercial rents and the lack of diverse spaces and market forces that create synergy among non-tourism industries, to other small business owners getting a foothold in our economy.
5. The many millions spent by the city on the Chamber of Commerce and propping-up tourism — had those monies been spent another way — might have created environmental and market conditions more conducive to the construction of more diverse forms of housing. Or could have ensured infrastructure improvements more supportive of non-tourism businesses.
6. We cannot keep feeding the Tourism beast in Sedona and go on believing that the answer is building more roads, building more parking garages, buying busses to shuttle tourists, over-stressing the environment and then begging the federal government or state to somehow make magic decisions to mitigate the impacts of over-tourism.
We MUST change behavior if we want something better for Sedona. Tommy, I am sorry if your business suffers in a downturn but here’s a fact: every person, every worker, every business in this country suffers in a downturn. If it’s your turn for a “layoff,” you need to do what every worker who has even been laid-off in the past has done: take stock, re-train, re-think, invest your time, labor and smarts in something else in order to find a path.
We, both as a country and in the city of Sedona, cannot keep blindly supporting the old ways of doing things. Climate change is here. Spillover pandemics are here. Volatile market forces are here. WE MUST CHANGE.
Stop looking backward and wishing things won’t change. It is not a successful strategy, either in business or in life.
Lot’s of great comments. The city does not need to pay $600 to $700k to the COC for salaries and benefits. All the COC does is contract agencies.
How about this – do what other cities with common sense do, have one person in charge of promotion and create a budget, put out RFQs and let the professionals who do this every day give us some programs.
We got how many bodies making 6 figure salaries at the city for “CAP (Climate Action Plan) whatever that is, and “sustainable Tourism” whatever that is. Make work feel good programs, except for the citizens.
Fire the CHAMBER – FIRE 5 of these 6 people, hire ONE good one that can write RFPs and monitor results and take the money and make it work with programs that are TRACK ABLE – which this COC has NEVER done.
Not tough folks.
Freedom of speech. Sedona citizens use it. There is obviously more than one side to this issue and all sides have some merit. As long as we have differing views expressed openly a balance will continue, albeit not perfectly. Tommy you are right to speak your mind and so are those who disagree. Without comments like these we will slip into the tyrany of the majority. Keep sturing the pot!
I am a small business owner as well. I agree with how you feel.
I don’t know how many years you have been in Sedona but Sedona is ALWAYS very slow in July, August.
As a business owner, we know this and we prepare accordingly. Business picks up in the fall and it will do so this year as well. So just enjoy the opportunity to be able to park at trail heads and the peace of the slow period. It will be crazy busy soon.
However, all that being said.
I do feel Sedona will see less tourists come next season. And that is due to following:
1- Tourists were very turned off by the excruciating traffic congestion. Word got out! They will not come back. Everytime I mention Sedona when I am in Phoenix, the first thing I hear is how horrible traffic is and they will never go there again. There are other places to go, they say.
2- High gas prices are effecting people’s travel. So is Sedona’s overly expensive restaurants and LACK of seating capacities. I had many tourists complain that they ended up going to McDonald’s because they couldn’t get into any restaurant. They callwd for reservations a week in advance and still couldn’t get in.
3- Tourism will be slower come fall, and thereafter because when you cut down on tourism marketing dollars, you are nowhere to be seen. No, tourists will not always come here because of tge Red Rocks!! Tourists ci.e here because we, Sedona Chamber, TELLS them about it. When you stop marketing, you create a vacuum for other destinations. Tourism Marketing is a very cut throat, intense business. Many destinations spend MILLIONS, MILLIONS to get the tourist dollars. Guess what? When Sedona doesn’t market, we are OFF THE RADAR! Tourists memories are very short, and their attention span is short as well. You are not at their face 24/7, they move on! We will see this drop in Tourism from now on, more and more. I know! I specialize in Tourism Destination Marketing. I marketed countries like Egyot, England, Switzerland, Iceland, Thailand. Believe me, they spend MILLIONS! We cut down on marketing, and we WILL BE A GHOST town!
It doesn’t take much of a psychic to see that the economy is toast, that Biden is leading the US straight to war causing NYC to release a PSA about how to survive a nuclear blast (if that’s even possible), that Wall Street, gold, silver is being heavily manipulated by the money changers, that a world-wide economic collapse is here at our doorsteps.
This is the time to prepare for the worse and pray for the best.
Spend as much time with your loved ones because we simply do not know how much time we have left.
It is an honor to be a part of this community. I empathize to the struggles and changes that occur
I share my perspective in this moment
It is simple yet honest
I am going to continue to stargaze in the dark sky community
learning more about myself, the only one I can control & my relationship to the planet, my neighbors & the universe.
I will remain grateful for the tremendous opportunity to be alive & to experience the full spectrum of life, even the parts of life that I do not yet understand & may never
I will continue to participate where I am able to with ethic, virtue & goodwill..
For this precious journey we call human life. Having faith that I will embody the richness of my souls expression when I pass, and that no earthly possessions shall wish to follow me.
while I am visitor, on this sacred planet earth.
I am Wishing inner peace & composure for each one of us while we move through transitions individually & as a community
My family and I our tourists. My parents started bringing me to Sedona 30 years ago and now I bring my kids. We used to come 2-3 times a year and now it is every couple of years. Part of our decline is due to Covid, another part would be gas prices, the last bit that really slowed our visits was joining the Sedona open Facebook. My family and I do a lot of travelling and I always join open Facebook groups for places we visit. Sedona’s open Facebook page was by FAR the most toxic I have ever seen – it really turned me off to visiting Sedona. We did come this year, but doubt we’ll be back any time soon. There are other communities far more welcoming and just as enjoyable.