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Japanese tourists spend more money in Arizona than any other group, according to the Sedona Chamber of Commerce.
By Trista Steers
Larson Newspapers
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Japanese tourists spend more money in Arizona than any other group, according to the Sedona Chamber of Commerce.

Arizona has also become the No. 1 U.S. destination for Germans since Sept. 11, 2001, reported The Project LLC.

So, naturally, these are two of the major groups targeted by Sedona tourism marketing.

The Project helps the chamber promote Sedona as a destination in the European market and specifically Germany and the United Kingdom.

In the Japanese market, the chamber has a major advantage — Tourism Development Manger Sachiko Sado is from Japan.

Sado is fluent in the language, knows the culture and is able to recognize what the Japanese people may want out of a trip to Sedona.

“We have created such a strong image of what Sedona has to offer,” Chamber Vice President Jennifer Wesselhoff said.

According to Wesselhoff, Japanese visitors are often drawn to the scenic and spiritual side of Sedona. They are touched emotionally, she said.

The chamber’s main interest in both of these markets is focused on tour packages that are in turn sold by travel agents.

Wesselhoff said tourists from Japan and Germany still rely on travel agents to make vacation plans unlike other countries, such as the United Kingdom where

visitors make their own arrangements via the Internet.

The United Kingdom, along with Canada and Mexico, are also top international tourism markets for Arizona.

Wesselhoff said Japan and Germany are the best fits for Sedona.

Japanese and German travelers may initially consult the Internet, Wesselhoff said, but in the end they tend not to make their own arrangements.

The Project focuses on the German market for the chamber.

Each year they train 120 German travel agents to be experts about Sedona.

Everything from the climate, landscape, events and general highlights of the area is taught to help the agents sell Sedona

services.

“It’s very focused in producing sales for the members in the chamber,” The Project General Manager Barbara Merschel said.

Initially, the chamber’s goal is to have Sedona featured in a larger package, such as a Grand Canyon package or Southwest tour, with a major company.

Once the larger tour groups include a location, Wesselhoff said, others begin to follow.

There are five major tour operators in Japan, and Sedona has been featured by most of them.

Packages include pre-planned lodging, dining and activities.

“You can even pre-book Jeep tours in the German market now,” Merschel said.

Promotion also occurs through advertising — print, Internet and television — and public relations.

The Japanese got their first real look at Sedona in a February 2003 issue of Japanese Cosmopolitan.

“That was the first PR that we got,” Sado said.

The magazine sent one of their make-up artists to Sedona who then produced a 10-page spread for the magazine based on her travels.

Since then, Sedona has been featured in numerous magazines across Japan.

Producing actual numbers to guage the success of these efforts is difficult, according to Wesselhoff. All they can really do is watch visitors on the street and track business activity.

“We’re not actually interacting with the visitor,” Wesselhoff said.

Many local business have hired bilingual employees — many speak Japanese — telling Wesselhoff the international market is making an impact.

“We have a lot of locals who speak multiple languages,” Wesselhoff said.

Also, a Japanese tour operator has moved his business to Sedona and businesses with Japanese specific services are popping up in the area.

While the chamber does work to attract foreign travelers, they don’t forget the domestic market, Wesselhoff said.

According to Merschel, The Project’s main domestic focus is on the Phoenix post and pre-convention market and motor coach tours.


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