Outdoor Recreation Industry and Coronavirus

The outdoor industry takes the health and well-being of our partners, employees and customers very seriously. This is why during the coronavirus pandemic we are focused on helping Americans get through this time as safely and sanely as possible.

We all know the healing power of nature and the outdoors – from John Muir 150 years ago to public health experts today during this unprecedented time. And we all know that engaging in our favorite recreation activity – boating, RVing, climbing, motorcycling, camping, fishing, biking or whatever – does wonders for our health and well-being. However, we have to be smart about getting outside in this public health emergency.

As more parts of the U.S. see closures and recommendations for more social distancing, we all need to find ways to manage the stress and uncertainty. While working from home and with children out of school, unable to go about our normal routines or see our aging relatives, a daily walk, run or hike or weekend camping can be important to your physical and mental health. Just practice social distancing while doing your favorite activity.

Small Businesses in the Outdoor Industry

Most outdoor recreation industries are considered “small businesses” if they have fewer than 500 employees.
Bicycling – 92% Small Businesses
PeopleForBikes reports that 92% percent of their members are classified as small businesses, and that there are 12,100 U.S. small businesses in or related to the bicycling industry.
Equestrian – Mostly Small Businesses
The American Horse Council reports that more equine businesses self-identify as a “small business” than any other business category.
Fishing – 90% Small Businesses
The American Sportfishing Association reports that of their 900 business members, over 90% are small businesses.
Snowmobiling – Overwhelming Majority Small Businesses
The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association reports that the roughly 1,250 snowmobile dealers across the country each employ an average of 26 people.
Marine – 85% Small Businesses
The Marine Retailers Association of the Americas reports that beyond four major companies, all 3,500 of the retail locations they support are small businesses.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association reports that 85 percent of marine manufacturers (1,400 companies) are small businesses.
Outdoor Equipment – 75% Small Businesses
The Outdoor Industry Association reports that 75 percent of their members are classified as “small businesses,” having under $10 million per year in revenue and fewer than 700 employees.
RV – 97% Small Businesses
The RV Dealers Association estimates that 97+ percent of RV dealers meet this criteria.
Specialty Equipment – 92% Small Businesses
The Specialty Equipment Market Association represents 8,000 member companies and estimates that 92 percent are small businesses with 100 or fewer employees.
Private Campgrounds – 98% Small Businesses
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds reports that of their small businesses, 93% have fewer than 20 employees. The remainder have between 20 and 400.
Powersports – Majority small business
The Motorcycle Industry Council reports that over 90% of the approximate 7,800 powersports retail outlets across the country are small businesses.

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Here are some tips to getting outdoors in the next few weeks and months:


  • Plan for outdoor activities nearby like camping, fishing or biking.


  • Take stock of your gear, give it a deep clean, plan your next outdoor trip for when the dust settles.


  • Remember to follow CDC guidelines and local regulations. Some national and state parks will be closed or have limited access. Be sure to see what is open as circumstances are changing rapidly and look for low visitation areas to keep parking lots and other areas that attract visitors within social distancing standards.


  • Take time to recognize the people working and staffing your favorite park, bike shop or campsite. They are anxious like the rest of us and don’t want to be put in unsafe situations. The private sector is working with federal and state governments by coming to the table with best practices to help keep open space facilities clean, safe and within CDC guidelines so they can stay open.


  • Remember that when you are camping or recreating in rural areas, the local health care systems could be stressed and taxed. This is all part of understanding that our actions impact others and it’s best to stay close to home at this time.


  • Meanwhile, outdoor businesses are suffering so think about ways to support your favorite outdoor retailer, campground, tackle or bike shop, like buying a gift certificate!


  • This is a rapidly evolving situation, with guidance changing daily. So, make a plan and a backup plan, but get outside for Vitamin D and sanity, if only for a walk!

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What can policy makers do now to help sustain our quality of life and the outdoor recreation economy?


  • Keep outdoor areas open and accessible if it can be done safely and within CDC guidelines;


  • Work with local private partners before making closure decisions to solicit support and help;


  • Provide tariff relief for outdoor businesses;


  • Include the outdoor industry, made up of mostly small businesses, in stimulus packages moving forward;


  • Consider the operational impacts to nonprofit partners that support outdoor recreation and rely on federal dollars to support support agency and departmental missions; and


  • Ensure timely, consistent, and clear guidance is disseminated to all nonprofit partners.


This situation, more than ever, shines a light on the importance of close to home recreation access attained by programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund and ensured by funding in the Restore our Parks Act. We hope that when Congress gets back to business as usual, they will make these forward-thinking investments that help us stay healthy, drive local economies and contribute to quality of life in both good times and bad.

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