Rural businesses can apply for Growth Programme grants to fund small-scale tourism infrastructure projects.
These grants are to help tourism grow in rural areas by attracting more visitors and for them to stay longer. Tourism infrastructure projects must be sustainable after grant funding stops.
Other grants, such as business development and tourism co-operation grants, are also available for rural tourism projects. The ‘call for applications’ will state which types of grant applicants can apply for.
Who can apply
Applications must be for projects in a rural area and for public use.
Call the Rural Payments helpline on 03000 200 301 to check if a location is in a rural area and can be classed as for public use.
Applicants can be:
- an existing or new business
- an existing or new social enterprise
- a farmer who has diversified, or wanting to diversify, into non-agricultural activities
- a landowner
- individuals or groups representing rural communities
Applicants need to be able to sign a legally binding contract in order to get a grant.
Micro and small businesses can apply for more than one grant as long as it’s for a different project.
Who can’t apply
Crown bodies are not eligible for these grants
At the moment, the following are not eligible for these grants:
- public bodies
- public private partnerships and
Businesses wholly or partly supported by government funding
Businesses that are wholly or partly supported by government funding are eligible only if they can show that the project funding, other than the grant, is from private sources (for example, savings or a bank loan).
Applicants that have some public funding
If an applicant has already had public funding, they must declare this when they apply.
If they have received more than €200,000 (approximately £145,000) of funding in the past 3 years, they may not qualify for some grants.
Applicants can call RPA to check whether they qualify for these grants on 03000 200 301 or email GPEnquiries@rpa.gsi.gov.uk.
The projects most likely to get funding are those which help the rural economy to grow by:
- creating new jobs
- developing high-quality visitor products and services, for example a visitor attraction
- linking tourism providers
- extending the tourism season
- encouraging visitors to stay longer and spend more
Many areas have a ‘destination’ or ‘place-based’ plan to explain how it wants tourism to develop and improve. Projects should help achieve the aims of the destination or place-based plan.
Examples of the types of eligible projects are:
- investments linking people with the natural environment (for example, access infrastructure)
- investments that provide information on, and develop, cultural, leisure and heritage products
- activities that attract visitors, increase visitor spending and benefit the local community
- shops, catering services (for example, restaurants and cafes)
- investments in multi-functional green infrastructure (for example a path which can be used by walkers, cyclists and horseriders)
- visitor attractions
- support for events and festivals building on local heritage and culture
- signposting of touristic sites
- construction and modernisation of tourism information centres, visitor information and guidance, and
- construction of shelters and safety facilities linked to soft-tourism, this covers things like walking and cycling trails
How much funding is available
The amount of a grant depends on the type of project but grants are normally above £35,000.
Each ‘call for applications’ will specify if there are minimum and maximum grant limits.
Tourism business development projects – up to 40% funding
Projects that have an income and create a profit are known as ‘tourism business development’ projects.
Applicants for tourism business development projects can only be:
- an existing or new business
- an existing or new social enterprise
- a farmer who has diversified, or wants to diversify, into non-agricultural activities
Applicants can usually apply for a grant to cover up to 40% of the project’s eligible costs. The eligible cost of the project should be more than £87,500 and grants are normally no more than £145,000.
Occasionally the calls for applications will be for larger projects. Grants for these projects will only cover up to 20% of the eligible costs.
The sizes of the grants available in sterling are determined by the Euro exchange rate, at the time the grant funding agreement is sent. The amounts given here are estimated sterling values at the time of publishing.
State aid rules
Grants to tourism business development projects can be made under de minimis state aid regulations.
A maximum of €200,000 (approximately £145,000) is available to any one applicant in any 3-year period under de minimis rules.
Where an applicant has had the maximum funding under the de minimis rules there may be other state aids rules which will provide for grants of up to 20% of eligible costs. RPA will check and discuss this with applicants where necessary.
Tourism semi-commercial projects – up to 80% funding
Projects that have some income but aren’t expected to make a profit are known as ‘tourism semi-commercial projects’.
Applicants can apply for a grant to cover up to 80% of a semi-commercial project’s eligible costs. The eliglbe cost of the project should be more than £43,750.
Tourism enhancing projects – 100% funding
Tourism projects that have no income are known as ‘enhancing projects’.
Applicants can apply for a grant to cover up to 100% of an enhancing project’s eligible costs.
The eligible cost of the project should be more than £35,000. A number of smaller tourism enhancing projects that support the aims of a destination plan can be grouped together in a single application.
Applicants can get funding to cover the costs of any the following:
- building or improving fixed property
- buying new equipment and machinery
- architects, engineer or consultant fees for the project – these can’t add up to more than 15% of the project’s total eligible costs
The following costs are also eligible, as long as they are only part of the project:
- buying or developing a dedicated piece of computer software – but not an off-the shelf piece of business software (like Microsoft Office), and
- patents, licences, copyrights or trademarks
There are some costs which are not eligible for all types of grants.
Tourism infrastructure grants will also not cover the costs of:
- repairs and maintenance of existing building, equipment and machinery
- refurbishment and simple like-for-like replacement of buildings, machinery or equipment
- marketing and promotion
- computers, software and printers for the general running of a business (for example, processing orders or accounts)
- moveable fittings - like soft furnishings, beds, tables, chairs, curtains, television and audio equipment
- operation and staff costs of a business or destination organisation
- developing pubs, restaurants and facilities that principally serve people in the local area without seeking to grow the visitor economy
- developing single purpose venues (for example, wedding venues) unless it can be clearly demonstrated that they will contribute to the wider economy/destination
- tourism brown signs
- projects to meet statutory requirements for disabled access, fire regulations or emergency exits, unless these costs form part of the normal costs for a major expansion project
- developing self-catering accommodation, camp sites, tents, camping pods, timber lodges, unless based on a well-evidenced destination, place-based or business plan
How to apply
Read about how to apply for Growth Programme grants.
Rural Payments helpline : 03000 200 301