Sedona Traffic Congestion - A New Era of "Sustainable Tourism"

Real Estate Agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage NRDS # 146013739

Sedona Traffic Congestion

Sedona Traffic Congestion

A New Era of Sustainable Tourism

The Delicate Balance

Sedona is an economy sustained by tourism. The hospitality industry is considered the largest contributor to the Sedona economy. It is a major source of income not only to Sedona but the the entire Verde Valley.  With 3 million to 5 million visitors a year visiting Sedona, and a local population of 10,255 (estimated), there needs to be a delicate balance.  Visitors and locals need to co-exist.

Who Is the City Government Working For?

Our city government handles many complaints every week from residents who travel our local streets. The mayor picks up some of these calls and may hear from an angry resident about the traffic issues.Some of these calls are considered "rants". However, many residents feel that the mayor and others are putting tourism over the local residents needs. Sedona residents and others who live locally in the Verde Valley, feel that the delicate balance has shifted toward the tourist.

An Example of the Delicate Balance Shift to Tourism

I get it, 66% of the sales tax revenue comes from tourism. Here is an example of this shift.  There is a goal to get more mountain bikers to visit the area, many of the hiking trails have been cultivated to be mountain bike friendly. It is hard to enjoy a nice hike when mountain bikes are whizzing by you, telling you to "move over"! Also the mountain bike yearly festival is the same time period as the Sedona International Film Festival.  Seems to me, that there are 52 weeks in a year. Do we really need two very different "Festivals" in the same week?

A Resident's Point of View

As a resident of West Sedona, I have talked with many other locals and clients about the situation.  Sedona has some beautiful hiking trails. You can find these trails everywhere. With the increase in tourism three fold in the past 10 years, (Arizona Daily Sun - May 7) many of the trailheads cannot sustain the traffic and parking in and near these trailheads.  Most of the trailheads are either in neighborhoods or a short walk from a neighborhood.  Cars are parking on the shoulder of neighborhood arteries. The cars are parked partly in the street and erode the shoulder.This is also causing a major safety hazard. Soldiers Pass and Dry Creek Road are two areas that this is most notable. Some cars are parking up to ½ mile or more from the trailheads. Hikers and mountain bikers are walking and riding in the middle of the street creating another hazard in a heavily congested and residential areas.

Traffic Is A Matter of Perspective

While working as a Sedona REALTOR®, I have found some clients say that there is way to much traffic and they have decided to buy elsewhere. I have owned a home in Sedona since 2003. I have seen a lot of changes over that time. In my opinion, If we are not changing we are stagnating. However, if you have only lived in a small town atmosphere, it might be hard to convince you that the Sedona traffic issues are not that bad. Those of us who come from highly urban areas know that traffic can be a real nightmare. In Chicago, I can remember driving one exit on the expressway that took ½ hour.  In the Los Angeles/Orange County metropolitan area, you could easily add one to two hours extra to your commute depending on time of day and where you were traveling (maybe even more)!

Pinch Points

The traffic congestion I showed in the two images added 5 to 15 extra minutes. On a holiday, you might see a 30 to 40 minute increase in traffic if you are coming from the far end of the Big Park area.  Rarely, does the traffic exceed a 10 -15 minute adjustment if you are coming from the Chapel area. Just like the beach areas in summer, locals learn what is the time to travel with the least amount of traffic. When possible, we schedule tasks and appointments in non-peak hours. Locals know the pinch points and how to avoid them. I should also say that the city understands where the pinch points are as well. Solutions are already in the pipeline to minimize high traffic pinch points.

Can Sedona Survive Without the Hospitality Industry? 

Our visitors add over $11 million in local tax dollars and they generate over 66% of the sales tax revenue. There are 10,000 jobs that are support our tourism at over $200 million in wages. The Top 5 employers are:

  • Enchantment Resort
  • Diamond Resorts - Los Abrigados, Bell Rock Inn, The Ridge, and The Summit among others.
  • L'Auberge, Orchard's Inn, and 89Agave
  • Hilton Sedona Resort and Spa
  • Pink Jeep Tours

State Route 179 constructionThis is just a fraction of the number of businesses that help support and sustain Sedona's Tourism economy. Can we live without tourism? I think not!

 How Did Sedona Get Here?

I look back at the Great Recession and remember what it was like to watch local businesses go out of business. Some of that was also fueled by the necessary improvement in the state highway SR179. The combination of the road improvements and Great Recession hurt local business.

Many Say The Chamber Is Doing Too Good A Job!

Our Chamber of Commerce is led by an outstanding team, some frustrated residents might say they are "too good".  There is more to Sedona's tourism improvement than just the Chamber of Commerce. A better economy and targeted marketing from the Chamber along with national media attention during  National Championship sporting events and the Super Bowl as well as increased Cactus League spring baseball training and social media "sharing" contribute to the continuing improvement and draw of tourists.


Sedona Chamber of Commerce Versus the "Delicate Balance"? 

  Sedona Chamber of CommerceWhat to do? Many visitors and residents alike come to Sedona to get away from the traffic and congestion of their own areas. They want to escape and relax, enjoy the outdoors, and all that Sedona offers. However, if things keep becoming more congested without any improvement or solutions, we may see these much needed tourist dollars go to other areas. We need to fix the traffic pinch points and do our best to even out the tourism spikes, so we can get back to that delicate balance. The Red Rock News in an article about the pavilion in Barbara Antonsen Park, Jennifer Wesselhoff said "that often, Sedona is a bit of a 'confused community'". She may be right on point. Here is her quote with more below. "We want a vibrant economy but we don’t want noise,” she said. “We want tourism dollars but we don’t want tourists. We want events but we don’t want too much traffic. We want to be a city animated by the arts but we don’t want music at night. We’re a little confused as to what we want to be when we grow up.


A Message from the Chamber CEO

The Sedona Chamber of Commerce headed by Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO, published a "Message from the CEO" outlining the traffic challenges and start of solutions for the "Destination Plan".  Here is a small part of her letter... 


I’m excited because starting at the City Council meeting starting at 4:30 p.m., we start managing tourism in a new way - focusing on preserving Sedona’s quality of life and lessening tourism’s impact by managing the visitor experience.
It will take a community consensus to fix challenges like traffic congestion, but I believe the Chamber can take some immediate actions: 
  • We are asking Council route a planned $268,900 increase in the tourism budget to transportation improvements instead.
  • I will present plans to reinvest 23% of our tourism budget in Sedona.
  • I’ll explain that we will not market Sedona inside Arizona this summer, aiming to help alleviate traffic, at least a bit.
  • We will mention the Sustainable Tourism Plan we are preparing in partnership with the City of Sedona and ASU, due this fall. The Plan will include exciting new ideas in transportation alternatives, visitor education and community stewardship.
We have a lot to talk about in balancing preservation and a tourism-based economy, and it is time to get the conversation going.

  According to the Chamber website, the Sedona Sustainable tourism Plan is due in October 2018. Jennifer Wesselhoff stated that she is "confident it will help us work together to balance the three legs of the Sedona experience." These three legs include, Environmental, Traffic and Housing as well as Economic considerations. You can find out more about the "Sustainable Tourism Plan" at this link.

Some of the information I am sharing was researched from Quarterly Report to City of Sedona, March 2018 and the Sedona Chamber of Commerce - 
The original article can be found at


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Sedona & Verde Valley events,happenings  and Sedona-Lifestyle,are brought to you as a courtesy of Sheri Sperry Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Sedona REALTOR®.  If you are a contemplating selling your home, a prospective buyer or just curious about real estate in Sedona I would be honored to discuss our market.  You can contact me at (928) 274-7355.  From the moment I am contacted, you will observe my seasoned ability to provide you with "World Class Service" and that "personal touch" while utilizing a complete package of technology options that are of the utmost importance and so critical in today's market. I will tailor REAL solutions to fit your specific needs.




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Ron and Alexandra Seigel
Napa Consultants - Carpinteria, CA
Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy


We have ways to avoid traffic congestion.  On a Sunday afternoon in the summer we see the same congestion heading South.  We just plan to stay in our little village that has everything and hang out on the beach, and we also know where the beaches where no one goes to.  Our tourism adds a nice sum to the coffers daily.  We also have a filf festival, who doesn' these days?  A

Jun 29, 2018 07:45 AM #4
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

It's a fact of life - with tourists comes a bit of congestion - on roads and in shops and eateries. Your post is spot on - and Sedona can't afford to turn off visitors - and doubt you couldn't anyway with all the gorgeous scenery. Where I grew up, Juneau Alaska - the town gets crazy when all the tourist ships come in the summer months. Locals complain like crazy - but most understand without the tourists, there wouldn't be the huge boost in revenue each year. 

Jun 29, 2018 07:53 AM #5
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD

This is a very interesting perspective to share with families considering a move to the area. 

We lived in a resort area for 18 years and understand the issues created by tourism.

Jun 29, 2018 07:56 AM #6
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

Hello Sheri, Wow never expected this with all your great pictures, I figure you were lucky and no traffic in your area.


Jun 29, 2018 08:27 AM #7
Brian England
Arizona Focus Realty - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

I remember the last time that I was in Sedona, I didn't like how much time it took to get through the area with the roundabouts, haha.

Jun 29, 2018 09:36 AM #8
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA - Bristow, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

Sedona sounds like it is having some growing pains with the tourism.  I'm sure your elected officials will strike a balance between serving the tourists, where they get the majority of revenue, and the locals.  

Jun 29, 2018 02:36 PM #9
Debbie Reynolds
Platinum Properties - Clarksville, TN
Your Dedicated Clarksville TN Real Estate Agent

We have owned a condo in Destin FL for 24 years. When we go to enjoy it and encounter all the tourists jamming the roads we feel like the locals and wish the tourism wasn't such an inconvenience. We think 24 years makes us like a local.

Jun 29, 2018 08:28 PM #10
James Dray
Fathom Realty - Bentonville, AR
Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results

Morning Sheri.

The issues in growing vs what it was.  In my area we are way beyond the old town atmosphere.  However, you can still be in the middle of our largest city and in 10-15 minutes be out in the woods.  It's all part of the issues of growing.  

Jun 30, 2018 01:40 AM #11
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce

That is a balance...while residents may feel some intrusion...they also benefit from the revenue.,

Jun 30, 2018 03:38 AM #12
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Sheri, we are having the very same issues.  Some trailheads have closed to get cleaned up, everyone leaves their trash.  Traffic is terrible, and seeing many move out here too.

Jun 30, 2018 06:48 AM #13
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Sheri Sperry - MCNE® - The first time I went to Sedona was in the 1980's. I remember it for it's tranquil roads, beautiful scenery, and great hiking trips led by native Indians from your area. I have not been back since but probably would feel a different vibe today. Sustainable tourism is a topic of interest at many universities. I don't think I'd bank on the current Town Council local leaders but hope that students studying in these areas will be encouraged to find new alternatives for grown, peace, and understanding. My daughter earned her Ph.D. in Tourism Sustainability. It's an upcoming career for many who are interested.

Jun 30, 2018 10:26 AM #14
Carol Williams
Although I'm retired, I love sharing my knowledge and learning from other real estate industry professionals. - Wenatchee, WA
Retired Agent / Broker / Property Manager

Hi Sheri,
This is an interesting post to me because last time I was in Sedona the traffic was absolutely horrid.  I vowed I would never go back.  I later found out that we were there during probably the worst possible week of the year... Baseball Spring training in Phoenix, Spring vacation for kids, and Nascar races.  I love Sedona and don't want to take it off my list of places to go back.  I'll just be more careful about my timing. 

Jun 30, 2018 11:52 AM #15
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Sheri- excellent post and love the use of "sustainable tourism." You and I both are familiar with Houston traffic and it has become worse. We are experiencing something similar here but we get a break during the off season. 

We have groups of bikers along A1A competing for space with those driving along either sight seeing or looking for a place to park. 

Jun 30, 2018 01:36 PM #16
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224


                              Thank you, Sheri!

Jun 30, 2018 06:14 PM #17
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Sheri, loved the pictures as well as the perspective, indeed you are so right about LA traffic. Diane works 6.5 miles from our home and it takes her 45-1:15 min depending what time and what day to go to work and always an hour or so to come home...Endre

Jun 30, 2018 08:30 PM #18
Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Good morning Sheri Sperry - MCNE® ,

I'm so glad that Kathy Streib featured you post in her "Ah-ha" moments for the week as I missed it! Loved your photos and your perspective. I agree with Patricia Feager "Sustainable tourism is a topic of interest at many universities. The students studying in these areas will be encouraged to find new alternatives for grown, peace, and understanding." I'm seeing many talking about how to create that balance just need to implement the right measures! Good job on an in-depth post that truly shows you know your area and are vigilant on making some productive changes. Change is the only constant in our world today!

Jul 01, 2018 05:32 AM #19
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

When you live in a "tourist town", some residents are rebellious to the outside traffic, while many learn to just deal with slightly longer commute times. It is important to note that the Sedona Chamber of Commerce acknowledges the concern and is trying to find a solution. Terrific post and love your photos.

Jul 01, 2018 08:09 AM #20
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Hi Sherri - growing pains and change are inevitable.  Sounds like getting a new strategic master plan and involving people is needed.

Jul 01, 2018 10:09 AM #21
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Sheri

There is clearly a lot of growth happening, with growing pains, too! It was interesting to read about these challenges and how they are being addressed. I’ve been lucky to have avoided Sedona at peak vacation times.


Jul 01, 2018 05:26 PM #22
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

Attitude is everything and it sounds like yours is great!

Jul 02, 2018 08:02 AM #23
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