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Rural Tourism Support Program

Please note the 2024 application period for this grant has closed.

The Rural Tourism Support (RTS) program focuses on long-term, sustainable destination development for underserved communities. Now in its fourth cycle, the program incorporates a community-based approach to destination development and is a significant investment of time and resources to support travel and tourism within a regional destination.  

Rural Tourism Support Program Overview 

This program helps tourism stakeholders organize and collaborate on small projects and specific issues to build momentum in fulfilling a 10-year vision for tourism in a destination. It also aids in the identification of community-shared values and tourism assets. It does not take the place of a strategic plan. 

The awardee and other tourism stakeholders will work with SWT to tailor the RTS program for their region, according to industry and community needs. This will occur in a phased approach and may include but is not limited to: 

Upon completion of the program after six to eight months, stakeholders are eligible to apply for up to $30,000 in grant funding from SWT to support a series of small-scale priority projects. The priority projects should align with a shared vision for destination stewardship among tourism stakeholders throughout a region.  

Grant funding from SWT requires a cash match or in-kind contributions that cannot pay for staff salaries, debt, or interest payments associated with eligible projects. Tourism stakeholders are encouraged to collaborate with the local destination marketing organization and industry partners on priority projects. 

2024 Application Timeline 

April 1 – 30: Application period | View the recorded info session

May: A review committee of industry experts will evaluate the leading applications. 

June 1: The award recipient will be notified by email. 

Dec. 31, 2025: The awardee must expend grant funds for priority projects. 

Application and Review Process 

Destination marketing organizations, chambers of commerce, businesses, community organizations, local governments, tribal governments and enterprises, or a combination thereof are encouraged to apply for the RTS program. Applicants must identify tourism as an economic development strategy and intend to work collaboratively with regional partners as a visitor destination. 

Tourism stakeholders interested in applying for the RTS program are strongly encouraged to submit a letter of intent. SWT would like to schedule one-on-one meetings with potential applicants before the submittal of their RTS application. Tourism stakeholders can submit letters of intent to SWT at any time of the year. 

The RTS program is awarded annually to one regional destination after a review of applications by industry experts from around the state.

The review committee will evaluate applications according to the following criteria: 

Regional Benefit
Is there a clear need for destination development or management in the applicant’s region? What economic benefits is the destination missing from untapped tourism potential?  

Convening Capacity
Is there a local convener who has the capacity to help plan and facilitate destination development activities throughout the region? Is the convener a trusted community partner?   

Project Readiness
Is there a diverse range of tourism stakeholders with the time and resources to serve on a steering committee and support the early phases of the RTS program, including the development of priority projects? Are resources available for the RTS matching grant to support the priority projects identified in the early phases of the program?  

Community Engagement
Are community members willing to engage with other tourism stakeholders in this program and provide feedback on program operations and strategies? 

Once selected, the applicant will assume a leadership role in destination development activities for the program’s duration in their region. 


Matthew Ozuna, destination development manager for SWT, is the primary contact for the RTS program. Tourism stakeholders can send their letters of intent and questions to Be sure to review the FAQ for this program as well as the application portal FAQ

Funding for the Rural Tourism Support program is made possible through a federal grant from the Economic Development Administration, awarded to State of Washington Tourism by the Washington State Department of Commerce for tourism industry pandemic recovery and intended for rural and underserved communities.