Outdoor recreation economy breaks records in latest government data | Hatch magazine


If you’ve spent any time over the past year or more on a river, hiking one of your favorite trails, looking to reserve a backcountry campsite, or just trying to buy that new fly rod you’ve got had your eye – only to be greeted by a row of drift boats at resorts, crowds, packed booking lines and product shortages – you’ve probably already guessed that 2021 was a big money year for the recreation industry in nature. A new report released last week by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has confirmed as much, revealing record results for the outdoor recreation economy. The latest BEA data shows that the outdoor recreation industry accounted for 1.9 percent of national GDP in 2021, contributing a grand total of $862 billion to the U.S. economy, the largest output since BEA began release data on the outdoor recreation industry. Perhaps most importantly, according to the BEA report, the outdoor recreation economy provides over 3 percent of American employment – ​​over 4.5 million jobs.

Boating/fishing was the single largest contributor to the nearly trillion dollar outdoor industry economy, accounting for over $50 billion in gross output. It also topped the list in 27 of the 50 US states, with Florida, California and Texas leading the pack.

“The nearly $1 trillion outdoor recreation economy is impressive but not surprising. With approximately 50 million anglers across the United States, recreational fishing is an important aspect of outdoor recreation, and we are proud to be part of an industry that is growing in popularity and value,” said Glenn Hughes, President of the American of sport fishing.. “BEA’s data reflects how important it is that Americans continue to have access to clean waters and abundant fisheries, and we are honored to play an important role in growing our nation’s economy. ASA expects to increase participation rates along with the rest of the outdoor recreation industry and get more Americans outdoors or on the water.

Hunting/shooting/hunting was the third largest contributor, generating over $18 billion in gross economic output.

Many of the states where the outdoor industry plays a large role in both economic production and employment, in addition to being coveted destinations for fly fishermen, are also some of the states where public lands are major drivers of outdoor recreation, such as Alaska, Montana. , Wyoming, Idaho and Utah.


Outdoor recreation as a percentage of state GDP

Outdoor recreation as a percentage of state GDP (image credit: BEA).

According to Jessica Turner, president of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR), “BEA’s data underscores how important it is to invest in public lands, waters, and recreational infrastructure from coast to coast and for recreational activities of all types. From creating jobs and increasing profits for small businesses in local economies, to greater benefits for our national economy, this sector is a steady driver, even in times of economic uncertainty. The strength of the outdoor recreation economy reflects what many in the industry have long known to be true: There are endless benefits that come from more people spending time outdoors, and they will only grow with continued investment.”

The growth of the outdoor recreation economy also dramatically outpaced that of the US economy as a whole, more than tripling the growth of national GDP. According to the BEA report, “Inflation-adjusted (‘real’) GDP for the outdoor recreation economy grew 18.9 percent in 2021, compared to a 5.9 percent increase for the overall U.S. economy, reflecting a rebound in outdoor recreation after 21.6 percent decline in 2020.”


Growth of the outdoor recreation economy compared to national GDP

Growth of the outdoor recreation economy compared to national GDP (image credit: BEA).

Commenting on the BEA report, Katie McKalip, President of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, said, “Our members, which include more than 600 outdoor media outlets across the country, have seen an explosion of interest in outdoor activities. over the past few years – including increased mass media coverage of outdoor recreation. It’s been great to reach even more people to inspire them to get outside – and ultimately help preserve our precious outdoor spaces.”



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