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Tourists fill Uptown sidewalks as warm weather signals the beginning of Sedona?s traditional busy season, but recently, when that season starts and ends has become fuzzy.

By Trista Steers
Larson Newspapers

Tourists fill Uptown sidewalks as warm weather signals the beginning of Sedona?s traditional busy season, but recently, when that season starts and ends has become fuzzy.

?It?s becoming not such a drastic increase specifically because of the film festival at the end of February and beginning of March,? Jennifer Wesselhoff, Sedona Chamber of Commerce vice president, said.

Spring break — spanning throughout March — traditionally brings an influx of visitors to Sedona, according to Wesselhoff.

Now, internationally recognized events in February — Sedona Marathon and Sedona International Film Festival & Workshop — combined with chamber advertising has begun attracting visitors at different times of the year, Wesselhoff said.

The last week in April, the chamber launches its television advertising campaign targeting Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas and Southern California.

Advertisements in late spring have helped increase summer tourism, Wesselhoff said. Previously, the busy season consisted of March, April and May, but now June has become stronger as well.

Cheers co-owner Nicole Davis said their shops now stay busy starting in spring and continuing throughout the summer and fall.

Cheers, a local family business, owns and operates six retail stores in Uptown.
Davis said the film festival, Feb. 28 through March 4, has made a noticeable difference in her February business.

?We?ve definitely seen a pickup in the last week or so,? Davis said.
Donna Helfrich, Pink Jeep general manager, said the tour company?s busy season also starts in February.

Starting Valentine?s Day weekend, tour numbers and occupancy increase, Helfrich said. The first week of March, numbers dip back down before picking back up.
?Our business more than doubles in the spring,? Helfrich said, and each season the numbers get higher.

?Every year we?ve had growth except 2001,? Helfrich said.

According to Wesselhoff, hotel occupancy rates within the city limits show spring is clearly the peak season, but summer and fall rates aren?t too far behind.

From March to May 2006, Smith Travel Research reported occupancy rates anywhere from 77 percent to almost 87 percent in Sedona hotels.

June to September 2006, rates were in the 60th percentile. The 2006 numbers were lower than those from 2005 because of the Brins Fire, Wesselhoff said.

STR reported occupancy of 81 percent for October in 2005 and 2006.

Wesselhoff said the chamber works to bring tourism to the area during times when tourism is traditionally lower, such as during summer, and it has seen results.

?We want to help bring business when we really, really need the business,? Wesselhoff said.
In December and January — the two months of winter in Sedona — fewer visitors venture into the red rocks.

Hotel occupancy was just under 50 percent for December 2005, January 2006 and December 2006.

Helfrich said winter is also important to Pink Jeep business. Slower winter business gives Pink Jeep time to hire and train new guides for the next busy season.

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