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

Feature Story

February 2021

Outdoor Participation Up Significantly, Says Topline Data From Outdoor Foundation

The Outdoor Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Outdoor Industry Association, released topline data frm its forthcoming Outdoor Participation Report, supporting what has been reported anecdotally for the past year: Americans found respite and solace from pandemic restrictions by increasing their time outdoors, participating in activities such as trail running, hiking, camping, fishing and biking.

These topline findings, as well as the full report, which will be available in early summer 2021, include much-anticipated insights about how and how much Americans engaged in outdoor activities throughout 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A few notable highlights include:

  • Camping participation grew 28%, with 7.9 million additional participants in 2020.
  • 8.1 million more Americans hiked in 2020 vs. 2019, as the participation rate grew 16.3%.
  • Freshwater fishing added 3.4 million participants in 2020, a gain of 8.6%.

Encouragingly, the data also indicate an overall decline in reported inactivity for most age groups and income levels, as well as a continued significant uptick in total outdoor participation to 52.9%, up from 50.5% in 2018 and 50.7% in 2019.

"These topline figures and the forthcoming full report build in more than 10 years of tracking outdoor participation trends and help the Foundation understand both motivations and barriers to outdoor participation," said Outdoor Foundation Managing Director Stephanie Maez. "In particular, we use the data from this annual study to identify barriers that keep Americans from going outside and to break down those barriers through supporting strategic community-based 'Thrive Outside' programs.

"The 2.2% jump in total participation over the past year is the largest annual increase we've seen since we began tracking the numbers, and it translates to many millions of additional participants who discovered the outdoors in 2020. Given the unique and unprecedented events of 2020, members of OIA are already asking what they can do to ensure the above numbers aren't merely a short-term blip and to sustain the increase over time."

"OIA and its member companies track trends and gaps in outdoor recreation and use this data to drive positive growth in the outdoor recreation economy and help get all Americans thriving outside," added OIA Executive Director Lise Aangeenbrug. "We do that through a two-pronged approach that includes the Foundation's community-based initiatives and our recreation and conservation policy work."

A one-time special report will be released in March answering four timely questions:

  • Who are the new outdoor participants who discovered the outdoors for the first time during the pandemic?
  • What barriers that previously prevented them from going outdoors came down in 2020?
  • How likely are they to continue participating in the outdoors after the pandemic?
  • What can the outdoor industry do to retain the new participants?

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