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CHAMBER NEWS: Signs of a slowing economy

Michelle Conway (Submitted photo)

Michelle Conway (Submitted photo)

There is so much to share with you this month — so let’s get started.

Nov. 2 at the Enchantment Resort, the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association (AzLTA) will present the latest industry trends. Phoenix-based AzLTA is an excellent source of data and a strong voice for statewide tourism development. I am proud to serve on their Board with Chamber partners Stan Kantowski and Lonnie Lillie.

Their presentation at our monthly mixer comes amidst signs of a slowing economy, which I first called to your attention this summer. August numbers are now in, and compared to August 2021, hotel occupancy was down 13%, while the Average Daily Rate for a hotel room was down 5.7%. September and October are critical times for our economy, and forthcoming data will merit close attention.

I was honored to bring our Annual Partner Meeting to the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock in the Village of Oak Creek on October 12. With a possible recession looming in 2023, guest speaker Jim Rounds of Rounds Consulting Group in Phoenix told the 165 attendees that Arizona’s economy performs comparatively well during contractions, with tourism playing a critical role by importing dollars to Arizona, stabilizing the business cycle.

He also pointed out facts we cannot repeat often enough. For example, our more than 10,000 tourism-related jobs are greater than the population of Sedona proper (9,684 in the 2020 census). In addition, visitor spending generates approximately 77% of city sales and bed tax revenues, allowing Sedona to forego a city property tax. Rounds concluded by calling for increased investment in tourism infrastructure and product development.

In my comments, I talked about our sustainability programs mitigating the impact of more than three million annual visitors. In partnership with the Sedona City Council, this year’s mission is to:

• Encourage positive visitor behavior

• Lessen density at busy locations

• Assist in preserving Sedona’s natural resources

• Ensure future economic health

• Ease neighborhood burdens and support workforce

• Deepen engagement with the short-term rental sector

Awards are always a highlight, and this year, APS took our prized Sustainability Award by, among other actions, moving up its target date to end coal-fired power generation to 2030, seven years earlier than its initial goal.

Marty Herman of Exposures International Gallery of Fine Art accepted our Cultural Achievement Award. Exposures’ beautifully designed gallery features more than 100 local artists, setting an international stage for Sedona’s thriving arts scene.

Sedona Recycles is our Customer Service awardee. A key contributor to the Sustainable Tourism Plan, they boast a typical recovery rate of 98%, meaning just 2% of what they receive becomes waste.

We also celebrated our volunteers in October, recognizing John Reass as our Volunteer of the Year. John has greeted guests at the Uptown Visitor Information Center every Saturday morning for 25 years. Ever cheerful, he loves the excitement of first-time visitors — a feeling he remembers well from his first glimpse of Sedona in 1996.

Thirty-three volunteers help keep the center running, educating and directing visitors seven days a week. In addition, Chamber volunteers provide services ranging from free business counseling to keeping our monthly mixers on track. Our Board of Directors are volunteers, and we owe them a particular debt of gratitude for crafting our direction and strategy. We literally could not operate without our volunteers!

The following individuals achieved significant milestones this year, and I am very thankful:

Dick Youngberg: 467 hrs.

Gary Kincaid: 368 hrs.

Elinor Friedman: 320 hrs.

Michelle Snyder: 300 hrs.

I love November (and pumpkin spice!) With the holidays on the horizon, I hope you’re looking forward to a festive season with loved ones. Meanwhile, stay up to the minute on Chamber news with our weekly e-newsletter. Sign up at

Michelle Conway is CEO and president of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau.

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