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A Toast to Tourism – Celebrating Collaboration in the Verde Valley

The following article originally appeared in Local First Arizona on Nov. 18, 2016 and is republished here with permission from the author. 
“Incredible by beauty, nature and space, Millions of travelers visit our place. Robust in culture, history, adventure for all, May visitors be many, but their footprint be small Stay, play….. take home memories to share, Leave our Verde Valley as if no one’s been there. To those vested in tourism, you’re doing it right, Our vision united, our future is bright!”

— “The Toast,” Lori Mabery, Blazin’ M Ranch

 Over a year ago, six towns of the Verde Valley came together in a unifying effort to promote their region through the National Geographic Geotourism website: VerdeValleyNatGeo.com. This past week, the coalition of Camp Verde, Clarkdale, Cottonwood, Jerome, Sedona, and the Yavapai Nation – collectively the Sedona Verde Valley Tourism Council –  reconvened to celebrate the economic growth generated through their efforts.
Members of the Sedona Verde Valley Tourism Council, representatives from National Geographic, and presenters from Arizona Office of Tourism and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

Members of the Sedona Verde Valley Tourism Council, representatives from National Geographic, and presenters from Arizona Office of Tourism and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

Featuring the spectacular landscape and diverse people of the Verde Valley, this continuously growing website and tourism tool is specific to the natural, cultural, and historic attractions of the region. Even more unique, the content on the website is provided by local business owners and community members native to the Verde Valley; displaying an authentic experience that resonates with travelers around the world. The input from these joint contributors creates a master tourism resource that is accessible online to local, national, and international travelers.

The Toast at Blazin’ M Ranch

On Tuesday, November 17th, tourism specialists, community leaders, business owners and other community members gathered at Cottonwood’s Blazin’ M Ranch to celebrate the success of the National Geographic Geotourism website. VerdeValleyNatGeo.com is a travel guide to the places most respected and recommended by locals, highlighting the wonders of the Verde Valley.
toast-to-tourismThe Toast to Tourism event was an opportunity to celebrate the collaboration between the separate municipalities of the Verde Valley, and for key leaders to share a summary of the website’s performance in its first year. With over 300 pages of content,  the site has generated over  30,000 visits from 90 countries around the world.

As this project has grown, there has been a renewed focus on sustainability and conservation of the beloved Verde Valley. Arizona State Parks, Friends of the Verde River Greenway, United States Forest Service Red Rock Ranger District, Verde River Valley Nature Organization, and the Yavapai Apache Nation have partnered with the Geotourism program to promote ways to protect the region from the physical impact of tourism.

Key Strategies Moving Forward

LOCALNESS

In both of their presentations, Stephanie Dowling from the Arizona Office of Tourism and Kathleen Pessolano from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council stressed one growing trend: market research shows an increase in visitors are seeking authentic local connection with the culture, cuisine, and activities of their destination.

SUSTAINABILITY

As this project has grown, community leaders have renewed their focus on sustaining and conserving the beloved Verde Valley amidst the influx of tourism. Organizations such as Arizona State Parks, Friends of the Verde River Greenway, United States Forest Service Red Rock Ranger District, Verde River Valley Nature Organization, and the Yavapai Apache Nation have all partnered with the National Geographic Geotourism program to implement ways of protect the region from the physical impact of tourism.

A Toast to the Presenting Local First Arizona Members

ERIC GLOMSKI

Owner of LFA-partnered businesses Page Spring Cellars and Arizona Stronghold,  Eric presented on the sustainable shifts he has made in his wine production.  Not only are his wineries almost completely powered by solar energy, he also assisted in the development of a pilot program to incentivise the conservation of water and farms his grapes without the use of petro-chemicals. These initiatives are cost-effective and embody the mission of his wineries – “We believe to make great wine we must take just as much responsibility for the lands we steward as the community we live in.”

CHRISTY FISHER

Owner of an LFA-partnered boutique, Christy joined the celebration with her lively band of friends “Cattywampus.” The dynamic group had attendees dancing in their seats with their performances of “Big Black Horse and A Cherry Tree” and the classic “Mustang Sally.”

toast-3UTILIZE VerdeValleyNatGeo.com & SedonaVerdeValley.org TO PROMOTE YOUR VERDE VALLEY BUSINESS AND YOUR COMMUNITY

Both resources are open for input from business and community members residing in the Verde Valley. They continue to thrive as locals input their own experiences and make personal recommendations.Create an account with VerdeValleyNatGeo.com to nominate places to the Mapguide, build a list of your favorite Trip Ideas, and convert your Trip Ideas into Trip Plans.

Utilize FREE services with SedonaVerdeValley.org – including website listings, event calendar postings, and listings on the National Geographic Website – or Partner for extended benefits.

By Ruth Ellen Elinski