State of the Industry: ORR Survey Shows a Promising Outlook for the Outdoor Recreation Industry

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Still, Nothing Will Make up for the Complete Closures This Past Spring

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 is showing signs of easing, with some turnaround from what was a devastating spring for the industry. The new August data paints a picture of a resurgence within many sectors of the industry; some areas with record high sales, and more people and newer and younger consumers prioritizing their time and resources during a recession on outdoor recreation. While the trend is heading in the right direction, it has not been universal across the industry and more support is needed as many outdoor recreation businesses are still suffering and in danger of permanent closure.

“According to the US Census Bureau, outdoor recreation was the second most impacted industry this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, next to food and accommodation,” said Lindsey Davis, Vice President of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “The industry experienced a double whammy impact due to both the pandemic related closures that slowed entire supply chains, retail, manufacturing and services and the closures of state and federal parks, marinas, trails, docks and more on our public lands.” 

According to a review of previous responses and ORR’s most recent survey responses of the 23 participating national outdoor recreation trade associations, representing over 25,000 businesses with nearly 2.5 million employees, the numbers show how hard the industry was initially impacted and how things have started to trend better for a lot of the industry: 

Combined Results: (The below statistics represent a change of year-over-year) 

Production / distribution: 

  • April: Of the businesses this survey represents, 89%, are experiencing difficulty with production and distribution, with 68% experiencing significant impacts.  
  • May: Of the businesses this survey represents, 100%, are experiencing difficulty with production and distribution, with 79% experiencing significant impacts.  
  • August: Of the businesses this survey represents, 91% are experiencing difficulty with production and distribution, with 48% experiencing significant impacts.  

Business Revenue: 

  • April: 89% of outdoor industry businesses are experiencing a decrease in sales with 39% seeing a decrease of 50-75% or greater. 
  • May: 94% of outdoor industry businesses are experiencing a decrease in sales with 24% seeing a decrease of 50-75% or greater. 
  • August: 65% of outdoor industry businesses are experiencing a decrease in sales with 17% seeing a decrease of 50-75% or greater. 22% of businesses are reporting in increase compared to one year ago.   

Trade Association Revenue:  

  • April: 80% of outdoor industry trade associations are seeing a decrease in revenue with 30% seeing a decrease of 50-75% or greater. 
  • May: 95%of outdoor industry trade associations are seeing a decrease in revenue with 26% seeing a decrease of 50-75% or greater. 
  • August: 70% of outdoor industry trade associations are seeing a decrease in revenue with 13% seeing a decrease of 50-75% or greater. 9% of trade associations are reporting an increase compared to one year ago.   

 Business Employment: 

  • April: 79% of these businesses have laid off or furloughed a portion of their workforce, with 11% closing, or laying off most of or all of staff.  
  • May: 88% of these businesses have laid off or furloughed a portion of their workforce, with 8% closing, or laying off most of or all of staff.  
  • August: 47% of these businesses have laid off or furloughed a portion of their workforce. 36% of businesses are reporting they are hiring, and more employees are needed.   

“We hope that the trends we are seeing now in outdoor recreation continue, and that some of the issues our members and businesses still face are quickly addressed by policy makers,” said Jessica Turner, Executive Director of ORR. “It has become widely known that recreation is a huge economic driver and with more smart investments like the recently passed Great American Outdoors Act, such as a Recreation Package, this industry will be a key player in economic recovery and a solution to other issues facing the nation such as unemployment, rural development, equity in outdoor access and mental and physical health.”

This is the third time ORR has surveyed its member trade associations, which represent over 110,000 RVing, camping, boating, fishing, powersports, horseback, hunting, skiing, hiking, biking businesses and more, about the impacts their member companies have experienced since the pandemic began.