According to a news story from the RV Industry Association, the annual ‘industry impact report for 2021’ from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), which calculates exactly how much of the USA’s gross domestic product comes from outdoor recreation, says that outdoor recreation and related businesses contributed $862 billion to the U.S. economy in 2021. That is more than the dollar amount generated by the entire American mining industry, and more than double the economic contribution of the nation’s agriculture sector. Outdoor recreation also created 4.5 million jobs in the process.
For clarity, “outdoor recreation” is defined rather broadly in the report, including “conventional activities” such as cycling, boating, and hiking; “other activities” such as gardening and outdoor concerts; and “supporting activities” like travel and tourism.
Perhaps the most encouraging takeaway from the study is the growth those numbers represent. The report showed an industry worth $173 billion more than it was in 2020. That’s an 18.9 percent increase year over year. Compare that to the nation’s overall economic growth—just 5.9 percent in the same period—and you’ve got a picture of an economic powerhouse that has completely bounced back from its 2020 dip.
“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. “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.”
“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 RV Industry Association President & CEO Craig Kirby. “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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.” 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.”