The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has released economic data for 2021 exhibiting outdoor recreation’s powerful and positive economic impact on the U.S. economy. These new numbers show outdoor recreation generates $862 billion in economic output and 4.5 million jobs. This means the outdoor recreation economy contributes more to the U.S. economy than oil and gas extraction, mining, and agriculture. The report includes national and state level data.
This is the fifth consecutive year that BEA has released government data on this critical industry sector. Today’s 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.
Key highlights from the 2021 data on the outdoor recreation economy:
- $862 billion in economic output;
- 1.9% of GDP;
- 4.5 million jobs;
- 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 allowed our 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 (ORR). “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.”
“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.”
“The latest BEA numbers are a testament to the power of outdoor recreation, and we are thrilled to see our industry’s economic impact grow,” said Chris Metz, CEO of Vista Outdoor Inc., the parent company of 41 outdoor and sporting product brands. “This data shows that people continued to venture into the outdoors for health, wellness and adventure in record numbers last year as businesses across the industry worked to expand participation and bring more people into the outdoors. The goal now: Build on that momentum. We will stay focused on increasing access to public lands, building more recreation infrastructure and growing participation across all outdoor activities.”
“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, Inc. “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.”
“The continued strength of the outdoor economy is no surprise to the marine industry, where we continue to see incredible growth with new and younger customers taking to our brands each year,” said Chris Drees, President of Mercury Marine, the world’s leading manufacturer of recreational marine propulsion engines. “We will continue to work closely with our partners in the outdoor recreational community to promote the benefits of being on the water.”
“Last year proved to be a year like no other for the outdoor recreation industry, and today’s Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account data release underscores the fact that boating and time spent on our nation’s waterways is a favorite American pastime,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and current Board Chair of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR). “Since 2020, the recreational boating and fishing industry and outdoor recreation economy at-large has led a national recovery, welcoming millions of families to experience the considerable health benefits of the great outdoors while being a vital economic contributor and job creator.”
“The outdoor recreation economy nearing $1 trillion in economic value is impressive yet unsurprising. With roughly 50 million anglers across the United States, recreational fishing is an important aspect of outdoor recreation, and we are proud to be part of an industry that is both growing in popularity and value,” said Glenn Hughes, President of the American Sportfishing Association. “The BEA data reflects how important it is for Americans to continue to have access to clean waters and abundant fisheries, and we are honored to play an important role in growing our nation’s economy. ASA looks forward to increasing participation rates alongside the rest of the outdoor recreation industry and getting more Americans outside or on the water.”
“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,” said Craig Kirby, President and CEO of the RV Industry Association. “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.”
“To those of us in the powersports industry, these are not surprising numbers. We’ve seen outdoor recreation giving a real boost to America’s economy during the pandemic as more people throw a leg over a motorcycle or ATV, or get behind the wheel of a side-by-side to enjoy family time in the beautiful outdoors,” said Erik Pritchard, President and CEO of the Motorcycle Industry Council. “The BEA data confirms that communities large and small, from all corners of America, benefit from outdoor recreation. We’re proud to be part of the responsible recreators who are generating nearly a trillion dollars in economic value across the country.”
To see what the recreation community is saying, click here.
America’s outdoor recreation community, represented by ORR, continues to support the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA) – the project compiling and releasing this data. 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.