The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported the latest statistics, which show that outdoor recreation generates $1.1 trillion in economic output (2.2 percent of GDP), nearly 5 million jobs, and comprises 3.2 percent of U.S. employees, according to an early analysis by the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR).
“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, and sustained investment in outdoor recreation and our shared public lands and waters pays dividends for our local and national economies and quality of life,” said Jessica Turner, president of the ORR. “Our industry continues to provide benefits to communities across the country—big, small, urban, and rural alike. To ensure that this success is sustainable and that our public lands and waters will continue to be accessible to all Americans for generations to come, we will continue to work together with leaders on the passage of America’s Outdoor Recreation Act by the end of this year. We are thrilled to once again see the data reflect what we hear every day, that outdoor recreation is not a nice to have—but a necessity for healthy people, places and economies.”
ORR said this is the sixth consecutive year BEA released national and state-level data on the sector. The data demonstrate how vital outdoor recreation has become and its potential to continue growing.
Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and Board chair of the ORR, said, “Recreational boating continues to be a major driver of economic activity, and the new 2022 BEA data capture Americans’ continued desire to be outdoors and on the water. Our industry saw record sales in 2020 and 2021, and that momentum continued into 2022. However, as our industry faces headwinds, now more than ever, it’s important that Americans’ access to recreational activities is protected. It’s clear that people want to get outside, and as an industry, we are working hard to ensure Americans continue to have access to the outdoor activities they love.”
Callie Hoyt, NMMA’s vice president of government relations, spoke on a call hosted by the ORR, highlighting the recreational boating industry’s economic impact. According to the NMMA, the industry supports over 800,000 jobs and generates $230 billion in economic impact. Further, NMMA said the recreational boating industry is uniquely positioned as a primarily American enterprise—with 95 percent of boats sold in the U.S. made in the U.S. and 93 percent of boat manufacturers being small businesses.
“The recreational boating sector not only serves as a beloved pastime but also contributes significantly to the national economy. With headwinds that range from inflation to threats to boating access, it is now more crucial than ever to safeguard Americans’ ability to partake in recreational activities,” stated the NMMA.
A range of outdoor industry leaders echoed the importance and relevance of the BEA’s recent report as follows:
Katherine Andrews, director, Arkansas Office of Outdoor Recreation: “The data released by BEA is reflective of our efforts in enhancing the quality of life through outdoor recreation here in the state of Arkansas. It provides a clear example of how our initiatives within the state are working and have positive impacts on our communities. We look forward to using this momentum to continue to expand the outdoor recreation economy both nationally, and here in our home state.”
Karina Armijo, executive director, New Mexico Outdoor Recreation Division: “The BEA data validates the ongoing efforts of New Mexico’s Outdoor Recreation Division to create jobs through the Trails+ grant program, support economic growth, and offer equitable access to the outdoors through the first-of-its-kind Outdoor Equity Fund. Based on the data, we can affirm these outdoor recreation-focused programs benefit all New Mexicans and the outdoor recreation businesses throughout the state.”
Paul Bambei, president and CEO, OHI: “Camping is one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors and it’s often the catalyst for other outdoor recreation activities. As part of the larger outdoor recreation industry, outdoor hospitality makes an incredible economic impact on local communities and the U.S. as a whole. Our camping consumer research shows a family of four spends an average of $275 per day in local communities on campsites, fuel, food, and entertainment, and this latest BEA data reaffirms the economic value of outdoor hospitality as part of the larger outdoor recreation industry’s impact.”
Aaron Bannon, executive director, America Outdoors Association: “The beneficial economic impact to communities that support outdoor recreation and guided recreation is undeniable. This latest BEA data demonstrates how significant this industry is and the critical role it plays in bolstering the U.S. economy.”
Julie Broadway, president, American Horse Council: “We are excited this new BEA data will help illustrate the magnitude and contributions of the recreational horseback riders on trails across the country. We know from our partnerships with NPS, USFS and BLM that millions of horseback riders are out on the trails each year, and tens of thousands of visitors participate in pack use. Plus, many of these not only come for the serenity and scenery, but to camp, fish and enjoy other aspects of the great outdoors.”
Chris Castilian, senior executive director, University of Denver Leadership in the Outdoor Recreation Industry program: The outdoor recreation industry is only growing; it’s important that its leaders grow alongside it. The University of Denver’s Leadership in Outdoor Recreation Industry graduate certificates are designed to diversify the talent pool in the outdoor industry, while simultaneously delivering people the skills they need to break into or advance in the industry. The BEA’s release on the industry’s economic impact shows the value provided by our courses in business, public policy, environmental impacts, and legal and regulatory issues.”
Jason Curry, director, Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation: “With a continual rise in people drawn to the outdoors, Utah’s outdoor recreation sector continues to be a catalyst for economic growth and job creation. Communities across the state are experiencing the numerous benefits of our readily accessible landscapes, and we will remain committed to fostering a high-quality outdoor lifestyle that drives the outdoor economy and enriches the lives of all Utah’s residents and visitors.”
Kent Ebersole, president, OIA: “It comes as no surprise that outdoor recreation and the outdoor economy continue to demonstrate outstanding growth, which also supports the historic trends in outdoor participation we have seen in recent years. The outdoor recreation participant base grew for the eighth consecutive year to a record 168.1 million participants, and new participants are increasingly diverse and looking to businesses to lead on sustainability, equity, and conservation. This new data demonstrates the strength of the outdoor recreation industry and our collective power to drive sustainable economic growth while protecting—and growing access to— the benefits of the outdoors for everyone.”
Dan Forster, VP and chief conservation officer, Archery Trade Association: “The recently released BEA report reaffirms the relative importance of the outdoor recreation economy and the need to keep it strong and growing. Recreational pursuits like archery hunting and target archery are not only enjoyable pastimes and traditions but also contribute to a robust recreational economy that helps drive our country forward.
Matt Gruhn, president, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas: “This new BEA data demonstrates the importance of the recreational boating and fishing industries to the outdoor recreation economy as a whole and makes clear the role retailers play in making this possible. Outdoor recreation and recreational boating and fishing in particular are economic drivers in their communities and nationwide.”
Conor Hall, director, Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office: “We are grateful to the BEA for gathering this data showing clearly that the outdoor industry is a critical economic driver and source of jobs for both Colorado and the country. We must continue to champion destination stewardship, more equitable access to the outdoors, a healthy workforce, and continued sustainable growth of the industry.”
Patrick Harrington, manager, Wyoming Office of Outdoor Recreation: “Outdoor recreation is a cornerstone of the Wyoming economy and is stitched tightly into what it means to live in our state, with endless opportunities to explore the great outdoors. We look forward to this release every year as a moment to celebrate the great work of folks all across Wyoming who are advancing this economy in a way that makes sense for the people that call this place home.”
Taldi Harrison, director, community and government affairs, REI Co-op: “Outdoor recreation is not only a source of physical and mental health benefits but also a key driver of job creation and economic development for rural and urban communities alike. The latest findings from the Bureau of Economic Analysis underscore the importance of continued investments in public lands, recreation infrastructure, and reducing barriers to increase participation.”
Glenn Hughes, president, American Sportfishing Association: “The BEA report puts data behind what we’ve always known, that in addition to improving Americans’ quality of life, outdoor recreation is a major economic driver. To continue growing our sector and the millions of jobs it produces, policymakers must support sound public land and natural resource policy that facilitates access to the great outdoors. More than 54 million Americans went fishing last year, which creates hundreds of thousands of jobs and raises billions of dollars because we have so much access and fishable waters across our great nation.”
Phil Ingrassia, president, RV Dealers Association: “This BEA report demonstrates the wide-ranging economic impact outdoor recreation has on state economies as well as the entire nation. Outdoor recreation businesses, including R.V. dealerships, R.V. parks and campgrounds, and other recreational activities can spur economic growth in both metropolitan and rural areas of the country.”
Aaryn Kay, executive director, Professional TrailBuilders Association: “The PTB) is pleased to see that the BEA data on the outdoor recreation economy reinforces what our member companies are seeing across the country. Communities are demonstrating their values and priorities through an increased investment in outdoor infrastructure, especially trails. In 2022, PTBA member companies saw a 43 percent growth in revenue and a related 37 percent growth in employees, both of which translate to more trails on the ground, which ultimately bolsters our thriving outdoor recreation economy.”
Craig Kirby, president and CEO, RV Industry Association: “New RVers are younger and more diverse than ever before, and they are choosing RVing as a way to fulfill their desire to get outdoors, take part in all kinds of outdoor recreation, and live an active outdoor lifestyle. RVs provide a base camp for every form of recreation included in these new economic numbers, from boating and fishing to hiking, biking, climbing, and camping. What these new numbers show is that outdoor recreation is not just good for people’s physical and mental health, it is also a significant economic driver across the entire country.”
Ed Klim, president, International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association: “As we begin the 2023/24 snowmobile season, we are pleased to report that the snow is falling, and cold weather is here. Families are already making their winter travel plans on snowmobiles, which expands the economic impact in rural America and supports outdoor activities on our public lands in the National Forests and State Forests.”
Jenny Kordick, executive director, Maine Outdoor Brands: “Outdoor recreation is vital to the economic well-being of our state. With increased investment in our outdoor assets and support for new and existing companies, product innovation, and workforce development, Maine’s outdoor industry is poised to meet the rising demand for outdoor recreation and contribute to a resilient, environmentally responsible economy.”
Mindy Meade Meyers, executive director, National Park Hospitality Association: “As we have seen year after year, visitation to our national parks serves as an economic multiplier in communities across the country, spurring job creation and revenue generation in addition to great memories,. We are pleased to see that today’s release from BEA affirms the value of the outdoor recreation economy and confirms that national parks remain popular destinations for Americans. Our national park concessioners are proud to welcome visitors to our nation’s parks and help them experience these special places.
Carolann Ouellette, director, Maine Office of Outdoor Recreation: “The importance of the outdoor recreation sector and how it is a consistent economic driver is reinforced with the new BEA data. It also reinforces the importance of continual investment that supports the stewardship of our natural assets and the innovative businesses that strengthen our economy.”
Kelly Pawlak, president, National Ski Areas Association: “Ski areas and rural mountain communities nationwide have amazing economic success stories to share, and the numbers tell that story best. We welcome the new BEA data, which will strengthen NSAA’s advocacy alongside local partners and help fuel continued investments in the workforce, community, and guest experience.”
Erik Pritchard, president and CEO, Motorcycle Industry Council, Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, and Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association: “The strong data from BEA are in sync with our own sales numbers showing continued and immense consumer interest in outdoor recreation with Powersports vehicles. In fact, our data show that dual-sport motorcycles, which can be used on- and off-road for recreation, have doubled in sales since 2016, and off-road motorcycle sales are on a significant growth trajectory. Having annual data from BEA will help legislators understand the significant economic impact that the outdoor recreation industry brings to our nation and why investments to protect and grow access to public lands and waters are essential to the health of America and Americans. It also proves that big dividends come from federal funding for programs like the Recreational Trails Program, which benefits motorized and non-motorized recreational interests for people of all abilities.”
Marily Reese, executive director, National Forest Recreation Association: “The BEA’s assessment of the economic impact of the outdoor recreation industry is crucial to fully appreciating the value of our public lands because they not only provide amazing recreational opportunities, they also play a key role in our national economy. Whether the recreation is on a national forest or park or any other federal land, it’s helping people enjoy the outdoors and improve their health while also benefiting our economy by providing jobs for rural areas as well as for all the companies that provide outdoor gear. And BEA’s data is playing a key role in helping our country’s political leaders fully understand the importance of promoting outdoor recreation on federal lands.”
Mike Spagnola, CEO, Specialty Equipment Market Association: “The BEA’s numbers support the rapid expansion we’ve seen firsthand in the off-road and overlanding industries. While motorized recreation is a lifestyle and passion for millions of Americans, the money that OHV and Overlanding enthusiasts invest in their vehicles is a key economic driver of the $1.08 trillion annual outdoor recreation economy. Motorized recreation is a major employer in gateway communities and throughout the county, where specialty aftermarket businesses manufacture, install, and sell parts that upgrade everything from SUVs to trucks to OHVs with wheels and tires, suspension upgrades, lift kits, winches, lighting products, and more.”
Julie Sutton, senior director, Government Affairs and Global Impact, VF Corp.: “We have long appreciated the physical, social and emotional benefits of spending time outdoors. This latest BEA data confirms the compelling case for the outdoor recreation economy as a powerful driver of both GDP and jobs. The data also shows that a deep love for the outdoors is shared across the country. As this industry builds connections to people across the U.S., VF and its brands are committed to supporting a thriving recreation economy for everyone.”