Tourism Grant Program

The Tourism Grant Program awards funds to projects that strengthen Montana’s economy through the development and enhancement of the State’s tourism and recreation industry. Funds are awarded annually to projects that develop and enhance tourism and recreation products that have the potential to increase non-resident visitation.

The Tourism Grant Program is funded by the 4% Lodging Facility Use Tax; commonly known as the “Bed Tax”. Enacted by the 1987 Legislature, the Bed Tax is collected from guests of hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, guest ranches, resorts, short-term vacation rentals, and campgrounds. Distribution of the 4% collected funds is determined by statute and can be found on the Montana Tourism Fast Facts Tourism Funding and Revenue guide.

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Of the collected bed tax distributed to the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development, approximately $750,000 is awarded to projects in an annual cycle through the Tourism Grant Program

 

Tourism grant funds are awarded through the annual application cycle to projects that develop and enhance tourism and recreation products in Montana that have the potential to increase non-resident visitation and expenditures.

Entities in Montana that are eligible to apply for a Tourism Grant include:

  • A primary, registered non-profit 501(c) organization
  • A Tribal government
  • A City or County government

Eligible entities cannot use funds as a pass-through for ineligible entities, which include for-profit businesses, individuals, subsidiaries of a non-profit, sponsored entities that do not have a tax-exempt status, and other State or Federal agencies. Eligible entities must be in good standing with the IRS and the entity or organization information must match the filed Tax I.D. or, for a 501(c), the most recently filed Form 990-N. The 501(c) must be based in Montana. Eligible entities are limited to one application for one proposed project per funding cycle.

The asset/proposed project must be owned by the entity applying for the grant or the applicant must have a long-term lease with automatic renewal in place [such as for placing or constructing signage on municipal land or an enhancement project that is within a commercial facility]. If a non-profit is considering submitting an application where the asset, or land where the asset will be constructed, is owned or co-owned by a City or County or Tribal government, it is recommended that the City or County or Tribe be a co-applicant.

Funds are generally awarded to tourism and recreation projects that fall within the categories of:

  • Digital Product Development: online assets that create or contain destination brand for the tourism and/or recreation industry.
  • Heritage Preservation: projects that preserve, protect, or restore Montana’s arts, culture, and/or heritage treasures.
  • Infrastructure Upgrades or Enhancements: projects that will enhance the non-resident visitor experience and increase expenditures.
  • Wayfinding/Signage: community and/or outdoor recreation opportunities made more visible through signage or mapping or destination development.
  • Niche Product Development: projects of interest to non-resident visitors as identified in the Montana Destination Brand Research Study.

Destination event-only projects are NOT eligible under this program.  An event-based grant cycle will be offered later in this year.

Qualified applicants must demonstrate a match of actual and committed money and in-kind investment if applicable in the proposed project. The match is $1 applicant to $2 grant award. For example: if the project costs $9000 to complete, an applicant requesting $6,000 grant award must demonstrate they have $3,000 committed to the completion of the project as match. Reasonable in-kind services, in-kind labor, and/or volunteer hours can count up to 25% of applicant match yet the remaining 75% of applicant match must be committed cash.

Tourism Grant funds can only be requested for actual project and activity related costs. Examples of ineligible project costs include but are not limited to: workshops and training; market research or feasibility studies; staff costs including wages, travel, per diem; administrative, overhead, or indirect costs; office supplies; promotional items; subscriptions or membership costs; domain registration and website hosting; social media posts or press releases; routine operation and maintenance costs.

A key component of a successful application to the Tourism Grant Program is for the applicant to demonstrate the proposed project has the invested support of community and tourism partners. Such partnerships build sustainability and assist with destination marketing upon successful completion of the project.

The 2022 annual application cycle opened on August 1st and the 2022 application window closed promptly at midnight MST on September 15th. The 2022 application and awarded project timeline looks like:

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Applications are evaluated by a review team comprised of three staff in the Industry Services & Outreach Bureau, a staff member with the Office of Indian Country Economic Development, a staff member with the Community Development Division, and at least one board member of the Tourism Advisory Council. Applications are reviewed by how well the applicant would market the proposed project upon completion to measure the impact to non-resident visitors; proposed projects that are identified by the community as key tourism development projects in a community, strategic, or tourism/recreational plan; and proposed projects that are supported by tourism and community partners. Other factors that may affect the success of an application or the amount of a potential award is the frequency of previous grants to an organization/entity, contractual compliance issues on previous or current projects, if other funding sources would be a better fit for the project, and/or the amount of previous grants to a community. A high-level of concentration is given to qualified projects in rural communities, under-served regions of Montana, and tribal communities.

Tourism Grant Program Workshop for the Annual Application Cycle

For the annual application cycle, the Tourism Grant Program will host webinar trainings and workshops prior to the launch of the FY23 annual application cycle. We encourage interested eligible entities or organizations to subscribe to receive email updates from the Department of Commerce to keep informed about the workshops and application cycles of the Tourism Grant Program.

Overview of the Tourism Grant Program & Frequently Asked Questions

Tools for Grantees

Findings & Resources of Metrics

  • The Institute for Tourism & Recreation Research [ITRR] conducts travel and recreation research in Montana, with a primary focus on the nonresident travel survey conducted throughout the state. ITRR is perhaps best known for producing the widely used statewide estimates of total nonresident visitation and travel expenditures, as well as visitor characteristics, in the state each year, along with the annual estimate of the economic contribution of nonresident travel to Montana’s economy.
  • The purpose of the Analysis of Touring Cyclists: Impacts, Needs and Opportunities for Montana study by ITRR in 2013 was to understand the niche market of touring cyclists and to examine the potential for cycle tourism in the state of Montana.
  • The Economic Impacts of Historic Preservation study, commissioned by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in 2011, seeks to identify a finite number of indicators that can be used to regularly, consistently, meaningfully, and credibly measure the economic impact of historic preservation over time.
  • The American Alliance of Museums partnered with Oxford Economics in 2017 to study Museums as Economic Engines which ties into the Museums and Public Opinion finding.
    museum sector's significant contribution to the US economy.
  • The Montana Office of Tourism & Business Development [MOTBD] relies on data to drive Montana's tourism marketing strategy. Utilizing multiple tourism data partners, MOTBD is committed to giving our tourism partners access to cutting edge data resources. Our first step towards achieving that goal is to provide an active view of Montana's Tourism data which is available on the MOTBD website under Tourism Research.

A Few Complementary Programs

  • The Montana Governor's Office of Outdoor Recreation serves as a centralized point of contact and coordination for the broad outdoor recreation constituency with a focus on advocacy, policy, support, and growing new opportunities within the outdoor recreation industry.
  • The Montana Main Street Program helps communities strengthen and preserve their historic downtown commercial districts by focusing on economic development, urban revitalization, and historic preservation through long-range planning, organization, design, and promotion.
  • The Montana Historic Preservation Grant [MHPG] Program is a state-funded program to support the preservation of historic sites, historical societies, or history museums.
  • The Indian Country Economic Development Programs page provide all of the resources available to Native American businesses, Native American non-profit organizations, and tribal governments in Montana under one office.
  • The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks [FWP] provides a variety of grant funds for communities to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities in Montana, to enhance fishing opportunities by constructing or improving public fishing ponds, and trail stewardship grants.
  • The Montana History Foundation [MHF] is a charitable foundation that raises money and provides funding for history and preservation projects across Montana.
  • The Community Development Block Grant [CDBG] Program helps local governments fund construction or rehabilitation of infrastructure and facilities that primarily benefit low-income to moderate-income Montanans.
  • The Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program provides funding for rural projects through local utility organizations for projects that will create and retain employment in rural areas.
  • The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a privately funded non-profit organization that works to save imperiled buildings, revitalize downtowns, and tell stories that help all people see themselves in our nation's diverse history.
  • The State, Tribal, and Local Plans & Grants [STLPG] Division of the National Park Service manages several grant programs to assist with a variety of historic preservation and community projects focused on heritage preservation.

Approximately $750,000 is awarded annually to projects through the Tourism Grant Program. When available, a percentage of additional collected tax funds are awarded in unique application cycles to events only. Since 1995, over $12.8 million dollars has been awarded to 515 tourism and recreation related projects resulting in a positive economic benefit for communities throughout Montana.

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Click here to view & download the Cumulative List of Tourism Grant Awards from State Fiscal Year 1995-2021. [pdf]