Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

November 2018

Outdoor Recreation Adds Billions to U.S. Economy

By Dave Ramont

In our era of constantly evolving technology and smart devices, it’s nice to know that the outdoor recreation industry is growing too, as more people are heading outside for leisure and adventure. A recent report by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) on the outputs from outdoor recreation shows that outdoor recreation now accounts for 2.2 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). The report states that more than $734 billion is contributed by outdoor recreation to the total U.S. gross output.

Amy Roberts, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), the leading trade association for the outdoor industry, said their analysis shows that Americans spend $887 billion annually on outdoor recreation and that all of this data underscores how outdoor recreation is a significant and growing contributor to the U.S. economy.

“BEA’s final numbers confirm what the outdoor industry has always known: that outdoor recreation truly is an economic force, accounting for over 2 percent of the entire nation’s GDP and growing faster than the economy as a whole,” Roberts said. “We strongly encourage members of Congress to invest in public lands as these numbers demonstrate the return on investment.”

Americans cherish their outdoor experiences, according to Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO of REI Co-op, and this unites us as a nation, as well as being good for the economy. “The government’s data confirms what many of us in the industry have known for quite some time,” he said. “Millions of Americans love to get outside and enjoy time with friends and family, adventuring right out their back doors or off into our iconic wild places.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) explained that her state draws visitors from around the world. She believes that protecting our environment and expanding outdoor recreation is fundamental to the tourism industry. “This report shows that outdoor recreation is an economic powerhouse and underscores the need to continue investing in measures that preserve our environment and access to public lands.”

Shaheen, who worked on the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact (REC) Act authored by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said that she’ll continue to prioritize legislation in Congress to build on these efforts.

“Outdoor recreation continues to be an important part of the American experience, and that’s why I introduced the Outdoor Rec Act in 2016,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.). “It plays a major role in the Northern Virginia economy by contributing over $1 billion annually and provides critical jobs to the region.”

Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) said that outdoor recreation is one of the largest industries in his state. “Washington state is the proud home of stunning mountains, beaches, lakes and rivers, drawing visitors from around the world for our hiking, skiing, fishing, climbing and many more outdoor opportunities these lands offer. I am proud to see this report that my colleagues and I successfully authorized in 2016 come to fruition and show what many of us already knew: how important this industry is to our country.”

OIA and its membership worked with various senators and representatives to move this bill and secure funding to launch the study. They’re now looking to Congress to continue to provide annual funding for this report and produce regional data as well.

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