Today, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce unveiled the 2022 data from the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account, highlighting the sector’s unprecedented economic impact in its history and its substantial positive influence on the U.S. economy.
The latest figures indicate that the outdoor recreation sector contributes $1.1 trillion to the economic output (accounting for 2.2% of the GDP), supports nearly 5 million jobs, and represents 3.2% of the total U.S. workforce.
For the sixth year in a row, the BEA has provided both national and state-level data on this essential industry. The current data release underscores the continuous growth and vitality of the outdoor industry, fostering job creation and boosting local economies across the nation, strengthening the overall U.S. economy.
Chris Perkins, vice president of Programs for the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR), shared these insights during a webinar. Perkins emphasized the sector’s growth of 4.8% from 2021 to 2022, outpacing the overall U.S. economy’s growth. This acceleration is also reflected in employment figures, with outdoor recreation jobs growing by 7.4% compared to the national average of 3.9%.
The top activities contributing to this economic boom include RVing, boating, fishing, motorcycling, ATV hunting, shooting, trapping, snow activities, and recreational flying. The data also revealed remarkable state-level growth, with Hawaii leading at a 44% growth rate, followed closely by Alaska and the District of Columbia.
Callie Hoyt of the National Marine Manufacturers Association highlighted the boating industry’s resilience amidst challenges like inflation and access threats. Boating and fishing remain top segments, with a nominal gross output of $60.1 billion and a 5% increase from 2019 in real gross output.
“[The year 2020 brought unprecedented challenges, but it also revealed a profound appreciation for outdoor activities as we saw a surge in Americans desire to be outdoors and on the water. As a result, the boating industry witnessed record sales in 2021, and we see this momentum continued in 2022 through the newest BEA data showing boating and fishing remain a top contributing segment within the outdoor economy,” Hoyt said.
Yvonne Leow, CEO of Bewilder, an outdoor education company, discussed their innovative approach to engaging urban families in outdoor activities. Leow pointed out the challenge of screen time, with adults and kids spending an average of 13 and 7.5 hours a day, respectively, on digital media. However, 85% of parents wish for their children to spend more time outdoors.
“So we’re very optimistic that as a nation, as an industry, we are on the right path to continuing to further more love for the outdoors. But a lot of work still needs to be done, especially in these urban environments where they may not always have the easiest access to the outdoors,” Leow said.
Jason Rano, VP of Government Affairs at the RV Industry Association, brought attention to the RV sector, the largest contributor in outdoor recreation. He noted the demographic shift in RV buyers towards younger and more diverse groups, emphasizing the need for modernized infrastructure and increased access to public lands.
“What 2020 numbers show is the impact of the 1.5 million RVs built in the last few years that are being used for outdoor recreation. People have turned to RVs and RVing as a way to experience the great outdoors and recreate and our research shows that 20 million people are planning to go RVing this holiday season and 70 million people are planning to go RVing in 2024. So the use will continue,” Reyno highlighted.
Kent Ebersole of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) underscored the economic force of outdoor activities like hiking, camping, skiing, biking, and climbing. He mentioned the 40% growth in gross output from core OIA activities since 2019, reflecting a diverse participant base.
“Over 55% of all Americans enjoy outdoor activities. We’re especially proud that the gross output from core activities OIA represents, climbing, hiking, tent camping, grew 40% from 2019 to 2022,” Ebersole said.
Perkins reiterated the significant figures, stating that the ORR will leverage this data to advocate for outdoor recreation priorities, including a transformative recreation package currently under Congressional consideration.
This new data underlines the outdoor recreation industry’s burgeoning role in the U.S. economy, highlighting its impact on job creation, state economies, and the national GDP. It underscores the sector’s resilience and adaptability, promising a sustainable and inclusive future for outdoor enthusiasts and the economy at large.