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Report: Outdoor Recreation Industry Worth $862B Annually

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The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has released economic data it gathered in 2021 that shows how hugely beneficial outdoor recreation is to the overall U.S. economy. These new numbers show outdoor recreation generates $862 billion in economic output annually, or 1.9% of the nation’s GDP, along with the supporting 4.5 million jobs.

This means the outdoor recreation economy contributes more to the U.S. economy than oil and gas extraction, mining and farming.

This is the fifth consecutive year that BEA has released government data on this critical industry sector, and it contains both national- and state-level data.

The release shows how the outdoor industry, which played a vital economic and social role throughout the pandemic, has since sustained remarkable growth, and continued to bolster local economies. The outdoor recreation economy came back stronger than ever after the COVID-19 pandemic and remains a steady source of strength nationally and a booming job creator locally.

According to the report, trips and travel coming back, record sales in many outdoor segments, manufacturing increasing, as well as the drive to continue to recreate for quality of life is what allowed the industry to bounce back from the effects of COVID-19 in 2020.

“The BEA data underscores how important it is to invest in public lands, waters and recreation infrastructure from coast to coast and for recreation activities of all types,” said Jessica Turner, president of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “From the creation of jobs and increased profit for small businesses in local economies, to larger boons to our national economy, this sector is a consistent 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 infinite benefits that come from more people spending time outdoors, and they’ll only grow with continued investment.”

Added Craig Kirby, president and CEO of the RV Industry Association: “The RV industry has seen a record number of younger and more diverse customers flock to RVs as a way to fulfil their desire to get outdoors, take part in all kinds of outdoor recreation, and live an active outdoor lifestyle. RVs provide a basecamp for every form of recreation included in these new economic numbers, from boating and fishing to hiking, biking, and climbing. 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.”

“We have seen record growth in camping and boating over the past couple years, with millions of people enjoying RVs and boats to connect with family and friends, to relax and recharge, and to experience nature,” said Michael Happe, President and CEO of Winnebago Industries. “The record economic impact in the BEA numbers demonstrates the collective power of our industry to help people discover and experience the tremendous benefits of the outdoor lifestyle. We continue to welcome an increasingly diverse group of new participants, so we look forward to maintaining this momentum by developing recreation infrastructure and increasing access for all.”

“This data solidifies what we have seen over our sixty-year history – that there is intrinsic value in the outdoors,” said Toby O’Rourke, President and CEO of Kampgrounds of America. “Over 20 million new households started camping since 2020 with six in ten planning to continue. We are increasingly seeing camping and the outdoors vacation becoming a preferred form of travel. The economic impact of camping and the greater outdoor industry underscores how critical natural spaces are to our communities.? And, even more importantly, the outdoors remain vital for overall health and well-being and in fostering connection to others.”

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