A new study confirms what Colorado and people everywhere witnessed in 2020: an increase in nature.
The Boulder-based Outdoor Industry Association cited the pandemic as the reason an estimated 160.7 million Americans participated in outdoor recreational activities last year. That was the highest number recorded in the 2007 annual report and also the largest increase the trading group has ever seen – 7.1 million people from 2019.
The study, which is based on the latest census data, suggests that by 2020 nearly half of the US population played outdoors.
“However, those one-year gains have not fundamentally changed the long-term challenges facing the outdoor industry,” the report’s executive summary reads.
The industry continues to monitor what it calls “worrying trends” in relation to race and gender.
The study found that 72% of people who enjoy the outdoors are white. Although they made up 18% of the US population, Hispanics made up 11% of the country’s outdoor participants – defined as someone who walked, hiked, bicycled, fish, or engaged in some other activity at least once a year. Researchers found that this is 9% among blacks, who make up 13% of the population. The study found that Asian-American outdoor activities have been going down for three years.
Women, who make up about 51% of the country’s population, reportedly account for 46% of those participating in outdoor recreational activities.
“This gender difference has not changed in eight years, suggesting that industry efforts to expand the equity base have been ineffective or stalled,” the study said.
The report also found a persistent decrease in outdoor time.
Despite the larger number of participants, researchers estimated a total of 11.4 billion trips in 2020, less than the total forecast for 2012 of 12.4 billion. In 2015, the study found an average number of 82 excursions among people in a year. The estimate was 71 for 2020.
The study found that about a quarter of “new entrants” would not resume their outdoor activities in the New Year – “a number that could increase sharply if consumers return to pre-pandemic habits,” the Outdoor Industry Association found .
The data were extrapolated from a survey of 18,000 people aged 6 and over. “A weighting technique was used to balance the data to reflect the entire US population,” the report said, which adds a confidence level of plus or minus 0.32 percentage points at a confidence level of 95%.