Sedona City Manager discusses controversy over city’s tourism

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The Sedona Chamber and Tourism Bureau has chosen to sever its 20-year tourism management contract with the City of Sedona. After Arizona Horizon spoke with the Chamber, now we hear the City of Sedona’s viewpoint on the severing of the contract. The Chamber feels its expertise is not being utilized to balance the economy, the environment and the local quality of life in a place much beloved by Arizonans.

As of July 1, the Chamber will directly manage and market tourism in Sedona without funding from the city’s bed-tax, which are dollars collected from guests who stay at Sedona’s hotels.

Anyone following the conversations between these two organizations for the last couple of years would not be surprised by the decision to part ways, according to Karen Osburn, Sedona City Manager.

“There were just many levels where our interests and our goals did not align. So, that has morphed over time, but at this point, I think this is the best thing for both the city as an organization as well as the Chamber of Commerce,” Osburn said.

Osburn explained tourism has increased due to a multitude of reasons over the past few years, and visitation has skyrocketed over a short period of time.

“We saw what we would consider over-tourism,” Osburn said. “We reached the tipping point where there was no longer any kind of balance between visitor experience, visitor numbers and quality of life for our residents in our community.”

In response to the Chamber’s claim that the city is discouraging tourism and hurting local businesses, Osburn said there was a need for a marketing pause and that managing tactics needed to be reorganized as opposed to the “come one, come all” approach.

“We have seen a bit of a dip, but our levels at 2021 and 2022 far exceed our ability to accommodate those visitors. So the fact that tourism may be leveling off or may be receding just a little bit is actually, I think, a blessing form our standpoint in trying to manage particular things like traffic, the impact to trails and so forth but also our residents’ ability to co-exist with tourism,” Osburn said.

Karen Osburn, Sedona City Manager

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