TOURISM in the VERDE VALLEY: A $670 Million Industry

From majestic mountains to spectacular red-rock formations, mysterious canyons, vast grasslands, verdant riparian environments, lush forests, and chaparral, the Sedona Verde Valley region boasts an amazing array of picturesque and ecologically important landscapes. These landscapes play an important role in the local economy and are intimately tied to the region’s rich Native American and Western Culture, vibrant artist communities, vineyards, spiritual ties, and southwestern culinary splendor.

Tourism in the Verde Valley is a nearly $670 million industry. 

In 2014, direct visitor spending produced a total economic impact of $697 million, including $240 million in labor income, and $104 million in federal, state, and local taxes.  Plus, more than 10,000 jobs are generated from tourism in the Verde Valley.

Encompassing approximately 300 square miles, including portions of Coconino and Prescott National Forests, Arizona State Parks Land, Arizona State Trust Land, trust lands of the Yavapai-Apache Nation, National Parks land, incorporated municipalities, portions of Yavapai County east of Mingus Mountain and the Black Hills, a wide variety of agencies hold land in the Verde Valley.  In addition, the Verde Valley offers world-class outdoor recreation, and historic and cultural tourism.  Our region is home to a fabulous, burgeoning wine-growing industry which is attracting global renown.  Sparked in large part through the wine-based research and education center, the Southwest Wine Center of Yavapai College, our area is attracting young entrepreneurs with their families who are settling into our communities as vital links to a vibrant future.

In fact, the Verde Valley was recognized recently by National Geographic as one of 23 sites world-wide offering authentic, not-to-be-missed geotourism opportunities.  Be sure to check out the National Geographic Mapguide website HERE and to learn more about the Sedona Verde Valley Tourism Council, the organization who spearheaded this project, click here:

In 2014, the Verde Valley communities of Sedona, Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Clarkdale, and Jerome united to conduct a comprehensive survey of visitors to the area. It had been eight years since the last survey was undertaken in 2006-07, before the start of the Great Recession in Arizona. This 2014-15 survey was conducted after the regional economy began to recover, thus the two surveys represent an interesting comparison, both before and after the recession. Over this time period, communities throughout the Verde Valley have improved product offerings and visitor experiences, invigorated historic downtown areas, created a successful Arizona wine industry, added mountain biking/marathon events, and expanded rafting and tubing on the Verde River – the last of Arizona’s wild and free-flowing rivers. All of these additions have attracted old and new visitors alike.

This regional research set out to understand and document changes in the Verde Valley visitor market, and to compare current market data to that in the earlier survey. This information will assist Verde Valley tourism and economic development directors with targeted marketing, additional product development, and advocacy for an industry that is critical to the health of the regional economy.

Review the full 2014-15 Verde Valley Visitor Survey


  • Average visitor age was 54.6 years, older than the 45.1 years of Arizona visitors generally in 2014.
  • Average annual household income was quite high at $109,276, considerably higher than the 2014 average for Arizona visitors of $70,380.

Visitor Characteristics:

  • Almost two-thirds of visitors were from outofstate (63%), 28% were Arizona residents, and 8.5% were international visitors.
  • The top origin states for outofstate visitors were California, Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida, and Texas. In all, residents from 49 states were captured in the sample.
  • Two-thirds of in-state resident visitors were from Maricopa County (66%), especially Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Mesa; about six percent (6%) were from Pima County, mainly Tucson; the rest (28%) were spread throughout the state; in all, 75 Arizona communities were in the sample.
  • About one in 12 (8.5%) was an international visitor; two-thirds of these (68%) were from Canada, followed by those from the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan. In all, 23 countries were captured in the sample.
  • More than half were repeat visitors (53%) who averaged 8.3 prior visits; the remainder were firsttime visitors (47%).
  • Well over half (61%) of visitors traveled with family only; another 21% traveled in groups of family and friends.
  • Average party size was three persons (3.1), with median of two persons; only 10% of parties traveled with children under 18 years.
  • Two-thirds of visitors were overnight visitors (66%) while one-third were day visitors (34%).
  • Average overnight lengthofstay in the Verde Valley was 3.0 nights.
  • More than four in 10 visitors (44%) said their decision to visit the Verde Valley was influenced by friends or relatives, followed by the Internet at 13%.
  • Primary trip purpose was dominated by sightseeing (42%), followed by outdoor recreation (19%).
  • For three-fourths of visitors (72%) the Verde Valley was the primary destination of their trip; for the remainder (28%) the visit was one stop on a longer trip. The primary destination for those on a longer trip was Grand Canyon.
  • Lodging choice for almost half of visitors was hotels/motels/resorts (47%), followed by more than a fourth who stayed in timeshares (28%).
  • The most popular visitor activities in the Verde Valley were: dining (engaged in by 59%), shopping (54%), hiking (43%), and visiting art galleries/museums (38%).
  • The top three most-visited attractions in each Verde Valley community (ranked in declining order), were the following: Camp Verde – Montezuma Castle/Well National Monument, Out of Africa, and Downtown Camp Verde. Clarkdale – Verde Canyon Railroad, Tuzigoot National Monument, and the Copper Art Museum. Cottonwood – Historic Old Town Cottonwood, Blazin’ M Ranch, and Dead Horse Ranch State Park. Jerome – Galleries/shops, Historic Jerome/Ghost Towns, Jerome State Historic Park. Sedona – Red Rock Scenic Byway, Uptown Sedona, and Oak Creek Canyon.

Visitor Satisfaction:

  • Visitor satisfaction was high – 4.3 out of a possible 5.0.

To view the full study, click here.

Click HERE to view the full 2014-2015 Verde Valley Visitor Survey.

Photos Courtesy of VVREO and the the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau.