North Central Washington Selected for Rural Tourism Support Program


Program developed to model sustainable tourism growth

information released, file photo

Four counties in North Central Washington will participate in the next Rural Tourism Support (RTS) program by State of Washington Tourism (SWT). The North Central Washington Economic Development District (NCWEDD) will serve as the lead for tourism stakeholders in Chelan, Grant, Douglas and Okanogan Counties. A panel of industry experts selected the region as the second destination for the RTS program after a competitive process with other regions across the state.

Launched in 2021, the RTS program is a key pillar of SWT’s destination development strategy and serves as 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 visitor destination.

The RTS program serves as a model for communities across the state strving for more sustainable tourism growth. The program implements 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 how regional, national and global travel trends apply locally, with the goal of improving the quality of place for visitors and resident.

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.

“Thanks to the Rural Tourism Support program by State of Washington Tourism, North Central Washington can work toward shared goals as a regional destination, including enhancing the visitor experience and addressing impacts in high-use areas,” said Alyce Brown, executive director of NCWEDD . “North Central Washington saw a tremendous increase in visitors during the pandemic, which signaled the need for destination management. If the RTS program can help local stakeholders 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.”

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