1 trillion dollars? The outdoor recreation industry is outpacing the American economy thanks to the thirst for travel

1 trillion dollars?  The outdoor recreation industry is outpacing the American economy thanks to the thirst for travel

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Not only is the outdoor recreation industry growing rapidly, it is performing better than the overall U.S. economy.

That’s one of the key findings from data released Friday by the US Department of Commerce. From 2021 to 2022, the outdoor industry — including recreational vehicles, boating, motorcycles, hunting and many other activities — more than doubled its growth (4.9%) compared to the U.S. economy overall (1.9%). It is responsible for $1.1 trillion in economic output (2.2% of GDP), 5 million jobs, and 3.2% of all employees in the United States.

The data was collected by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), which began tracking the economic impact of the offshore industry just six years ago. In 2021, the industry grew by a whopping 22.7%, thanks to a renewed thirst for nature after the pandemic quarantine ended.

While growth was much lower in 2022, leaders at the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR), a coalition of outdoor-focused associations, said the new data proves the industry’s economic growth remains strong.

“If there’s one thing to take away from today’s BEA presentation it’s this: The state of the outdoor recreation economy is strong at more than $1 trillion in economic output,” ORR President Jessica Turner said in a press release.

“It demonstrates that sustainable investment in outdoor recreation and protection of our shared public lands and waters has tremendous benefits to our local and national economies and our quality of life.”

The offshore industry has outperformed the American economy overall. (Chart/BEA)

Growth is driven by travel and tourism

Nearly half of the outdoor industry’s total growth in 2022 (46%) came from increased travel and tourism, according to the BEA report.

This growth came primarily from spending on transportation, hotels and restaurants. Federal officials defined the other two industry categories as “traditional activities” (bicycling, boating, hiking, hunting, etc.) and “other activities” (such as gardening and outdoor concerts). They represent 34.2% and 19.8% of growth, respectively.

Interestingly, the last two categories did not grow much compared to 2021, in contrast to travel and tourism, which grew by 2.4%. In other words, Americans’ increasing desire to travel was an important economic driver, especially for outdoor recreation.

Several states have seen much higher growth in outdoor recreation than other states. (Chart, BEA)

As for specific activities, most of the major categories saw growth from 2021 to 2022, especially snow activities, which received a whopping 33% increase. More specifically, skiing grew by 18%, snowboarding by 17%, and “other activities,” which includes snowboarding, grew by 56%.

“The BEA report puts the data behind what we’ve always known, which is that in addition to improving Americans’ quality of life, outdoor recreation is a major economic driver,” Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sport Fishing Association, said in the news release. “To continue to grow our sector and the millions of jobs it produces, policymakers must support sound policies on public lands and natural resources that facilitate access to the great outdoors.”

To that end, BRT leaders said they will use the new data to support their legislative efforts for the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, which could reshape federal policy on public lands. They hope to pass the bill through Congress by the end of the year.

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