In recent years, members of the Sedona City Council have suggested the need to see if the city is getting the biggest bang for its buck in regard to promoting Sedona as a tourist destination.
One of the biggest proponents of seeking a request for proposal or request for quote has been Vice Mayor John Martinez. He and the rest of the council will discuss this possibility during a Wednesday, Jan. 11, City Council meeting. There, they will give direction to city staff on how the council wants to proceed regarding a contract for destination marketing and tourism promotion for the next fiscal year and beyond.
Since 1988, the city has contracted with the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau to handle those services. The current budget totals about $2 million with little more than $1 million going toward destination marketing, $410,000 for visitor services, another $389,828 for product development and $150,000 for administration costs.
“Because of my professional background, I’ve always felt you want to get the best product at the best price,” Martinez said last week. “The only way to know is to go through this process and see what’s available.
“I feel the chamber is doing a very, very good job of promoting Sedona, especially based on the numbers over the last three years after council increased the bed tax by half a percent and the chamber’s allocation to 55 percent. I just want to ensure we’re getting the best return on our investment.”
Martinez went on to say that to his knowledge the city has not been contacted by any outside organization or agency looking to take over the marketing and promotion of Sedona. But, he said each member of council has been contacted by residents requesting that an RFP be conducted.
“I’m not sure if these individuals have something against the chamber or if they simply don’t want Sedona to be promoted at all,” he said. “My desire to issue an RFP or RFQ is not based on these requests but rather my own interest in seeing one done. As council we care about what’s best for the entire city and not just small interest groups.”
Martinez said he’s not sure what direction council will give staff in regard to pursuing an RFP but feels he’s not the only one on council who is interested in seeing one. However, he said if council votes not to move forward with one, he will be disappointed but will accept the wishes of his fellow council members.
“It won’t be the first time I got out-voted,” he said, laughing. “But I don’t feel I’ll be the lone vote on this one.”
Council will have a variety of options presented to it by city staff at the Jan. 11 meeting. They include:
- Move forward with the negotiation of a new contract with the chamber.
- Issue an RFP for tourism promotion services.
- Create a stand-alone destination marketing organization without ties to the chamber.
- Create a city department to handle tourism promotion.
- Issue a RFQ for a travel industry consultancy to assess the current structure, funding relationships, etc., and provide recommendations to the city.
The chamber is nearing the end of a three-year contractual agreement with the city to be its designated destination marketing organization, which includes tourism promotion services. That contract expires June 30. Assistant City Manager Karen Osburn said the amount of time it takes to prepare an RFP for all parties involved is why staff is seeking direction from council now as opposed to later in the year.
Chamber President and CEO Jennifer Wesselhoff said the chamber has a strong partnership with the city and would support its decision to move forward with the distribution of an RFP or an RFQ for a full-service destination marketing and management organization.
“We fully support and expect them to be good stewards of public bed tax dollars and this process may help them better understand the full scope of services provided,” she said. “We’ve been the official DMO [destination marketing organization] in Sedona for more than 65 years and we are confident in our work, policies, team, strategic direction, leadership and relationships that we’ve built in the local community, region, state and nation.”
As one of less than 200 accredited destination marketing organizations in the world, Wesselhoff said they are experts in the tourism industry and lead the industry in best practices in promotion and management.
“While this process will most likely be a long and laborious one, we are certain that it will give us the opportunity to showcase our award-winning work and all the aspects of what we do to strengthen Sedona’s $600 million tourism industry,” she said.