The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released updated economic data on outdoor recreation’s powerful and positive economic impact on the U.S. economy showing $788 billion in economic output, comprising 2.1% of U.S. GDP and supporting 5.2 million jobs. The report includes national and state level data for both 2018 and 2019. 

This is the third consecutive year that BEA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has released data on the outdoor recreation economy and the third year the industry has shown growth across the board. Today’s release shows how this growing sector was growing rapidly prior to the pandemic and where it can lead again as an economic growth engine and job creator. 

Key Highlights from BEA’s new report on the outdoor recreation economy:

  • Outdoor recreation makes up 2.1 percent of U.S. GDP, generating $788 billion in gross output and supporting 5.2 million jobs. 
  • In terms of economic output, boating/fishing, RVing, hunting/shooting/trapping, motorcycling/ATVing, and equestrian sports are the five largest conventional outdoor recreation activities.
  • The top states where outdoor recreation accounts for the largest percentage of each states’ total GDP are Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Vermont and Wyoming.
  • The top five states where outdoor recreation accounts for the largest percentage of total U.S. GDP are California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas. 

“This year’s data on the impact of the outdoor recreation economy is reaffirming for the entire outdoor recreation industry, particularly after the last few months we have all had,” said Jessica Turner, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR). “The fact the industry generates $788 billion in output, comprises 2.1% of U.S. GDP and supports 5.2 million jobs is huge for the U.S economy, rural and gateway communities and Americans looking for jobs or to start a career in a growing and powerful industry. This, combined with the recent passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, bolsters the benefits of the outdoor recreation economy and our efforts to ensure all Americans have access to our public lands and waters.” 

“The BEA data reinforces what we in the powersports industry have known for some time,” said Erik Pritchard, president of the Motorcycle Industry Council, Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, and the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association. “Motorcycles, ATV and side-by-sides fuel the outdoor economy through production, assembly, distribution and dealerships across the country. Our riders pay nearly $300 million per year in gas taxes into the highway trust fund and they spend millions more at hotels, restaurants, gas stations and sporting goods stores. We’ve seen record sales during COVID-19 as new and returning riders flock to powersports as a socially distant form of recreation that is fun for individuals and families alike.”

“The BEA release of economic data comes at a time when the health and wellness benefits of recreation cannot be overstated,” said Lise Aangeenbrug, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association. “A recent poll showed 69 percent of Americans have gained a renewed appreciation for the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. People want to get outside for their physical and mental health. What’s more, they yearn for social connection, which they can find through safely distanced activities in neighborhood parks or national parks. The Outdoor Industry Association and our partners have and will continue to prioritize ways we can contribute to the economic, health, and well-being benefits across the U.S. in rural and urban communities. Now more than ever, we need the outdoors.” 

“The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds represents over 3,000 private park owners and vendors throughout North America,” said Paul Bambei, president & CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds. “We’ve used ORSA data to effectively open doors with both local, state and national legislators to make our case that we are a viable contributor to the economy, which has led to many positive outcomes. Going forward, we wouldn’t enter a political discussion without having ORSA data in our hip pocket.” 

“In many ways, the uptick in outdoor recreation activity during the pandemic only reinforces the findings in the 2018 and 2019 data, showing that recreational boating, fishing, and the broader outdoor recreation industry are sectors we should further invest in as we look towards recovery,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “This report provides invaluable insights about the role of the outdoor recreation industry in boosting regional economies all over the country and will be vitally important as we work with policymakers to provide meaningful investments and expand access to our nation’s favorite pastimes.”

“The outdoor recreation data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis is invaluable in helping us grow and support the outdoor industry in North Carolina,” said Amy Allison, director of the North Carolina Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. “These numbers show the strength of the outdoor recreation industry as a powerful economic driver in our state, and will help us to move the needle toward positive action that supports the industry and supports a healthy infrastructure of public lands that is vital to our economic growth.” 

“In Montana we understand the far reaching benefits and impacts of a healthy and vibrant outdoor recreation economy on nearly every facet of our lives and livelihoods,” said Rachel Schmidt, director of the Montana Governor’s Office of Outdoor Recreation. “Having this economic data is vitally important to forming the best policy decisions to support and enhance the recreation economy at every level of government in the country.”

America’s outdoor recreation community, represented by ORR, continues to support the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA) – the official name for the project. Just like is the case for many other industries, the goal is to provide annual data on the economic importance of national and regional outdoor recreation economies that can be tracked for years to come. To learn more about ORR and outdoor recreation’s contributions to the economy, click here