North Central Washington Selected for Rural Tourism Support Program
Program developed to model sustainable tourism growth
published information, file photo
Four counties in North Central Washington will participate in Washington State Tourism’s (SWT) upcoming Rural Tourism Support Program (RTS). The North Central Washington Economic Development District (NCWEDD) will serve as a lead for tourism stakeholders in Chelan, Grant, Douglas and Okanogan counties. A panel of industry experts selected the area as the second destination for the RTS program after a competitive process with other regions in the state.
Launched in 2021, the RTS program is a key pillar of SWT’s destination development strategy and a vital resource for underserved communities. Program applicants must identify tourism as an economic development strategy and intend to work collaboratively with regional partners as a tourism destination.
The RTS program serves as a model for communities across the state striving to achieve more sustainable tourism growth. The program implements a community-based 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 actions, including a 10-year vision for the evolution of the destination and a better understanding of the local application of regional, national and global tourism trends, with the aim of improving quality of the place for visitors and residents.
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 projects identified as priorities in a series of community workshops.
“Through Washington State Tourism’s Rural Tourism Support Program, North Central Washington can work toward common goals as a regional destination, including improving the visitor experience and managing impacts in high-use areas,” said Alyce Brown, executive director of NCWEDD. . “North-Central Washington has seen a dramatic increase in visitor numbers during the pandemic, which has signaled the need for destination management. If the RTS program can help local actors manage visitor flows and product development, the tourism industry can serve as a catalyst for economic empowerment, cultural understanding and environmental conservation in rural communities. .