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Tourism Grant Program

The 2021 Application Cycle for the Tourism Grant Program Closed at 5:00 pm on November 30. We encourage you to Subscribe to receive email updates from the Department of Commerce for other and future funding opportunities.

Tourism Grant Program Workshop for the 2021 Application Cycle

For the 2021 application cycle, the Tourism Grant Program hosted a webinar training and workshop to provide an over-view of the Program guidelines and timeline; updates and an overview of the application. A recording of the webinar will be available soon. Meanwhile, handouts that were made available during the webinar include: presentation slides of the Tourism Grant Program Application Workshop; a pdf of the 2021 Application for the Tourism Grant Program; and the Tourism Grant Budget Template for Projects. Also, available to download below are The Tourism Grant Program Frequently Asked Questions and About the Tourism Grant Program Annual Cycle.

Overview of the Tourism Grant Program & Frequently Asked Questions

Tools for Grantees

Resources & Complementary Programs

  • 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 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 Arrivalist© data which is available on the MOTBD website under Tourism Research.
  • 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 MOTBD Finance Information Center provides summary information to assist the businesses and communities of Montana in achieving economic prosperity, keeping in mind that the vision of prosperity to be achieved must be defined by the businesses and communities.
  • 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 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 business resources available to Native American businesses and tribal governments in Montana under one office.
  • The Recreational Trails Program [RTP] provides funds to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities in Montana.
  • The Montana History Foundation [MHF] is a charitable foundation that raises money and provides funding for history and preservation projects across Montana.
  • 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.
  • The State Financial Services Division is the subject matter experts regarding procurement when it comes to accountability and effective management of public funds. Tourism Grant funds are public funds so it is each grantee's responsibility to folllow the State Procurement Laws when going out to secure goods and/or services on an awarded project.

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. 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 with the owner [such as for placing or constructing an asset on leased land or a project that is within a facility that is rented]. If a non-profit is considering submitting an application where the asset or land where asset is 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 awarded to tourism and recreation projects that fall within the categories of:

  • Arts / Culture / Heritage Preservation: projects that preserve, protect, or restore Montana’s arts, culture, and/or heritage treasures.
  • Visitor Facility Upgrades / Construction: projects that will enhance the non-resident visitor experience and increase expenditures.
  • Niche Product Development: projects of interest to non-resident visitors as identified in Montana Destination Brand Research Study.

Qualified applicants must demonstrate a match of actual and committed investment in the proposed project. The match is $1 applicant to $2 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 as applicant match but will not be reimbursed with grant funds.

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 support of community and tourism partners. These partnerships build sustainability and assist with destination marketing upon successful completion of the project. The amount and frequency of previous grants to an eligible entity will be taken into consideration and may affect the success and/or amount of subsequent potential awards to that entity.

The 2021 application cycle will open on October 15th at 8am MST via an online platform. The 2021 application window closes at 5pm MST on November 30th. The 2021 application and awarded project timeline looks like:

Tourism Grant Application Timeline

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 or the amount of previous grants to a community. A high-level of concentration is also given to rural communities, under-served regions of Montana, and to tribal communities.

Approximately $750,000 is awarded annually through the Tourism Grant Program. Since 1995, over $12.1 million dollars has been awarded to 480 tourism and recreation related projects resulting in a positive economic benefit for communities throughout Montana.

Map of 2020 Annual Tourism Grant Awards

Click here to view & download the Cumulative List of Tourism Grant Awards from State Fiscal Year 1995-2020. [pdf]

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, and campgrounds. Distribution of these funds looks like:

Distribution of Bed Tax

Of the collected bed tax distributed to the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development, approximately $750,000 is awarded annually through the Tourism Grant Program. We encourage interested eligible entities to subscribe to receive email updates from the Department of Commerce for future and other funding opportunities as these become available.

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