- Özgür Töre
Sedona’s early start in organizing an aggressive workplace safety campaign is paying off, with hundreds of businesses agreeing to stringent health standards while hotel occupancy and visitation rebounded during the Memorial Day holiday.
Smith Travel Research reports Memorial Day weekend occupancy at 91 percent, with pedestrian and roadway traffic both near holiday norms, according to Sedona Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Wesselhoff.
“We compare that to late April when occupancy was at 10 percent, and visitation numbers were down 90 percent,” she said. “We launched Sedona|Clean.Safe.Ready at that time - our lowest point - anticipating the gradual lifting of statewide restrictions.”
“The name says it all. We wanted to be safe, clean and ready when the time came, and the public is responding,” she added.
Over 250 businesses have implemented more than 20 Sedona|Safe.Clean.Ready standards, such as proper social distancing, employee temperature checks, providing hand sanitizer for customers and utilizing personal protective equipment. “We are getting more signups every day,” Wesselhoff added.
All participating businesses are listed on SedonaSafeCleanReady.com along with the safety standards they agree to follow. The site also contains eight safety practices Sedona asks of visitors, such as staying home if sick and avoiding congregating in large crowds. “We all have a role in keeping Sedona safe while our community members reclaim their livelihoods,” Wesselhoff said.
“The Memorial Day numbers show our message is being heard, though a 91 percent rate is partially a holiday phenomenon,” Wesselhoff added. “We plan to recover gradually over the next year, with safety always top of mind.” Sedona expects to beat the national forecast for hotel occupancy in the next fiscal year but still finish significantly below the destination’s pre-virus levels. “Full recovery will take time, in Sedona and nationally,” Wesselhoff said.
The City of Sedona partnered with the Chamber on the campaign, said City Manager Justin Clifton. “We are balancing the need to breathe oxygen into the economy and keeping safe,” said Sedona City Manager Justin Clifton. “Sedona is tourism dependent, but we are relatively small and more than 100 miles from the nearest major city. Our challenge is to reopen while keeping COVID-19 cases manageable with our local medical infrastructure. Sedona | Safe.Clean.Ready reflects that balance.”
Sedona’s 10,000 people welcome approximately 3 million travelers a year. The tourism industry has an annual impact of more than $1 billion, is the Verde Valley’s largest employer and the primary source of municipal revenue.