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Rural Tourism Support Program

Managed and funded by State of Washington Tourism (SWT), the Rural Tourism Support (RTS) program focuses on long-term, sustainable destination development for visitors and residents.

About the Rural Tourism Support Program

Launched in 2021, the Rural Tourism Support program is a key pillar of SWT’s destination development strategy and serves as a vital resource for underserved communities. The program uses a community tourism approach to destination development and is facilitated by sustainable tourism expert Kristin Dahl, founder of Crosscurrent Collective.

A committee of local stakeholders determines key action items, including a 10-year vision for the evolution of the destination and a better understanding of regional, national and global travel trends. Growth may be one of the objectives in some communities; however, development may also incorporate management strategies for visitor flow. This would disperse visitors throughout a regional destination while mitigating the effects of overcrowding on communities and the environment. In any case, the program is designed to improve the experience for visitors and residents alike.

Upon successful completion of the program after six to eight months, tourism stakeholders are encouraged to apply for financial assistance from SWT and other funding sources to support priority projects identified in a series of community workshops.

Application Process

The RTS program is awarded annually to one entity following a rigorous application review.

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

To be considered, applicants must submit:

Stay tuned for the next open application period.

RTS in Action

In late 2021, the Tri-County Economic Development District (TEDD) in northeastern Washington was selected as the program’s inaugural destination partner. As a result of participating in the program, community and industry stakeholders came away with a solid roadmap to guide both short-term and long-term destination development and management, including:

In 2022, four counties in North Central Washington were selected for the next round of the program. North Central Washington Economic Development District (NCWEDD) served as the lead for tourism stakeholders in Chelan, Grant, Douglas, and Okanogan counties. 

“Thanks to the Rural Tourism Support program, North Central Washington can work toward shared goals as a regional destination, including ways to enhance the visitor experience and address impacts in high-use areas.”

Alyce Brown, executive director of NCWEDD