Sedona Unveils Sustainable Voluntourism

Sedona's red rocks inspire artists, spiritual seekers and nature lovers around the world.

Famed red rock destination responds to being “loved to death”

SEDONA, Ariz.May 13, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — The Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau is responding to the challenges of welcoming millions of annual visitors with a revolutionary change in how tourism is managed in one of America’s premier travel destinations. The Sedona Sustainable Tourism Plan will drive stewardship of Sedona’s famous red rocks while reducing traffic congestion, overcrowding and social impacts.

“Our stunning landscape inspires people everywhere,” 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.”

Increasing levels of tourism are sparking concern at popular destinations worldwide. Sedona’s 10,000 residents see an average of three million visitors a year. “We feel challenged by issues such as traffic and overcrowding while at the same time valuing the economic benefit,” Wesselhoff said. Recent studies found tourism has a $1 billion annual economic impact and supports 10,000 area jobs.

The Plan involved thousands of residents, organizations and visitors over a nearly two-year development period. It focuses on enhancing quality of life, protecting fragile lands, creating memorable visitor experiences and growing a strong economy. Among the objectives are:

  • Spreading visitation more evenly through the year
  • Investing in infrastructure improvements and public transit
  • Sensitizing visitors to the delicate Sedona environment and small-town quality of life
  • Encouraging sustainable experiences such as carbon footprint reduction and ‘voluntourism’
  • Using technology to reduce traffic and congestion, such as apps that deliver real time parking and trail conditions.

“It is all about balance,” Wesselhoff said. “Sustainability principles will keep our economy strong while assuring Sedonawill always be ‘The Most Beautiful Place on Earth.'”

Other initiatives will lessen light and noise pollution; increase water and energy conservation; and improve sustainable practices at Sedona’s hotels and hospitality businesses.

Tourism generates more than 75 of Sedona’s sales tax revenues, 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.

The Plan was spearheaded by the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau and recently approved by the City of Sedona City Council.