Outdoor Recreation Roundtable Launches Dashboard to Illustrate Continued Impacts to Outdoor Industry

An updated Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) member survey, in partnership with the Oregon State University Outdoor Recreation Economy Initiative, finds that the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the outdoor recreation industry continued to worsen throughout the month of May. More companies faced declining sales and revenue, difficulties with production and distribution, and large numbers of furloughs and layoffs. In some cases, outdoor businesses are being forced to close their doors for good. This is the second time ORR has surveyed its member trade associations, which represent over 100,000 RVing, camping, boating, fishing, horseback, hunting, skiing, hiking, biking businesses and more, about the impacts their member companies have experienced since the pandemic began. 

According to the US Census Bureau, which measured COVID-19 impacts on small businesses, 75 percent of small businesses in the category that includes recreation are reporting large and negative effects. Overall, our category has been hit 31 percent harder than the national average, making our industry the second most affected sector in the country behind ‘food and accommodation’ – (U.S. Census Bureau Small Business Pulse Survey). While we are seeing some jobs return in specific sectors, many are in restaurants, buffered by stimulus, with their durability in question as states reopen and nationwide COVID-19 cases continue to rise. 

In an effort to continue to track the ongoing impacts to the outdoor sector, ORR is launching a dashboard that will allow us to measure the effects on the industry as a whole, as well as within specific categories amongst manufacturers, service providers, and retailers as impacts have not been uniform.

According to the latest responses of the 21 participating national outdoor recreation trade associations, representing over 23,000 businesses with nearly 2 million employees, the impact is startling:

  • Of the businesses this survey represents, all are experiencing difficulty with production and distribution, with 79 percent experiencing significant impacts.
  • 88 percent of these businesses have laid off or furloughed a portion of their workforce
  • 94 percent of outdoor industry businesses are experiencing a decrease in sales with about 24 percent seeing a decrease of 50 percent or greater compared to one year ago. 
  • 95 percent of outdoor industry trade associations are seeing a decrease in revenue with 26 percent seeing a decrease of 50 percent or greater compared to one year ago. 

Although the impacts have been unprecedented, we are seeing more Americans than ever understand the value of outdoor activity. Swift action from Congress coupled with measures to protect Americans against the spread of the virus will help recreation come out of this stronger than ever and allow the outdoor recreation economy to do what it does best – revitalize communities, create jobs, support public health, improve quality of life and provide access to amazing outdoor experiences for generations to come.

ORR has been working closely with Congress on the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) and urging a vote to pass this landmark legislation as soon as possible. GAOA, which is slated for a vote in the Senate this week, includes essential funding for the maintenance backlog on our public lands and waters that will help provide much needed investments in America’s rural, gateway communities. It also provides full funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which will fund projects to bolster recreation dependent communities across the country. Passage of GAOA will provide a much-needed jolt to reinvigorate the $778 billion outdoor economy and our shared outdoor heritage.

It’s devastating to see the pandemic’s continued impact on the outdoor recreation economy and the local business that comprise it across the country,” said Jessica Wahl, Executive Director at Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “Just a few short months ago outdoor recreation was growing faster than almost any other industry, and now we are at a point where the industry is suffering disproportional economic drops. However, we have seen growing enthusiasm for close-to-home recreation and a deeper understanding of the benefits time in nature provides. We are holding on to this glimmer of hope to carry us through to better days for the industry and our country.”

“March and April were very difficult for the sportfishing industry with so many closures to both business operations and waterways, but fishing participation and associated sales are now starting to pick up in most parts of the country,” said Mike Leonard, vice president of Government Affairs at the American Sportfishing Association. “Hopefully these trends continue as the spread of COVID-19 keeps slowing and more restrictions are lifted. Fishing provides an ideal way for individuals and families to safely spend time outdoors and boost their physical and mental health. Congress can help ensure these opportunities are available in the future and help the long-term recovery of our industry by passing the Great American Outdoors Act.”

“What happens this summer will be hugely consequential to the outfitting and guiding industry,” said Aaron Bannon, executive director of the America Outdoors Association. “If they remain closed for more than three months, 29 percent of outfitters do not think they will make it. If they’re closed for six months, 68 percent of the outfitting industry may go under. We hope that states will continue to find ways to let the guided public connect with the outdoors through professional operators, for the good of the industry, but more importantly, for the good of the people who need to get outside and restore themselves.”

“This pandemic has had wide-ranging negative effects on the entire archery and bowhunting industry,” said Matt Kormann, president and CEO of the Archery Trade Association. “While the ATA remains cautiously optimistic for a strong fall bowhunting season, and we have begun to see some recovery within our industry, the future remains uncertain. Working with the broader Outdoor Recreation industry to pass GAOA is an important step, and just one of many necessary efforts at the federal level to ensure that all Americans can continue to enjoy the outdoors.”

“While many may not associate the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, which represents over 3,000 privately owned and operated campgrounds, with public lands and the GAOA that will infuse much needed funding into the general infrastructure the outdoor enthusiast desires, the two are very compatible,” said Paul Bambei, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds. “Public land improvement supports hundreds of gateway communities that exist along the entrances and borders of our national parks and outdoor recreation areas and research has shown private campgrounds that operate within a 50-mile radius are economically impacted in a significant way.  What’s good for public lands is good for private camping, and the beneficiary is the American outdoor enthusiast who takes advantage of both.”