Across the country and in Florida, green spaces often lead to greenbacks. According to the latest data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis on the economic impact of nature, outdoor recreational activities accounted for around 3% of Florida’s gross domestic product in 2020, more than just under 2% for the US as a whole. The signs also show that the outdoors remained a popular choice in 2021. Activities classified as conventional outdoor recreational activities such as boating, fishing, RV, hiking, and wildlife viewing remained stable in 2020 despite the industry challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We know that places that were open (in 2020), like parks, have seen tremendous growth that would not be seen in economic analysis,” said Taylor Stein, professor in the university’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation of Florida. “People are still spending money on stays, and when they couldn’t go to Europe they turned to the US and their national and state parks.”
According to BEA, the economic impact of conventional outdoor leisure activities accounted for more than 37% of all value-adding outdoor leisure experiences in the USA in 2020, compared to 30% in the previous year.
This increase was driven by higher boat and fishing spending, where Florida led the way with a GDP of $ 3.8 billion in 2020.
In Florida’s 11th Congressional District, which includes The Villages, anglers had an economic impact of $ 522 million and supported approximately 4,500 jobs, according to the latest estimates by the American Sportfishing Association.
“As the BEA numbers show, 2020 was an exceptional year for recreational fishing,” said Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association, in a statement. “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, people turned to nature like never before. We saw a huge increase in fishing participation from families with children as well as a new generation of young anglers. “
Traveling with mobile homes, or RVing for short, has also become increasingly popular. Nationwide, it was responsible for more than $ 19 billion in GDP.
Interest in RV driving, along with activities like kayaking and wildlife viewing, continues to spark interest in state and national parks – so much so that people may have a hard time finding campsites, Stein said.
In a 2021 survey, the Florida State Parks Foundation, a nonprofit that raises funds for state parks, found that 76% of visitors go camping in Florida state parks. It is their favorite pastime.
“(State and national parks) have recognized that they are the safe places, they are some of the few places (travelers) go that are reasonably safe,” he said.
Rande Zellers from Apopka camped in Lake Griffin State Park in Fruitland Park during the summer. It was one of the few parks he found available campgrounds – one of his first choices, Wekiwa Springs State Park, was booked out for the time he wanted to visit with his family.
“We like the state parks for the price and the beauty, and they’re all nice, but it’s hard to get into because so many people want to be there and there are only 40 to 50 attractions,” he said.
In 2019 and 2020, BEA data showed that outdoor recreational activities accounted for more than 4% of Florida’s GDP, more than 2% for the US as a whole.
However, if you look at all value-adding outdoor leisure activities, GDP fell sharply in 2020 compared to 2019.
This was due to nationwide tourism industry closures affecting outdoor activities beyond traditional recreation such as amusement parks, festivals and sporting events. Although these activities have not traditionally been associated with outdoor recreation, the BEA classifies them as part of the overall outdoor economy.
However, it is the nature-based experiences that become “havens” during the toughest moments of the pandemic, said Lise Aangeenbrug, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association, a trade group.
She highlighted that in 2020, more than half of Americans over 6 participated in at least one outdoor recreational experience, the highest participation rate her group had.
Aangeenbrug found that trend continued through 2021, citing sales data showing sales of tents, backpacks, cool boxes and camping gear increased by 20%.
Last year also marked the debut of a July Florida tax vacation called Freedom Week, when heads of state waived sales tax on camping gear, fishing tackle, and kayaks, among other things.
Stein believes that above-average interest in outdoor recreational activities will wane once the pandemic ends, citing research that has shown that many non-traditional users have engaged in other activities due to the lack of other activities.
But he remains encouraged by the strong national pull.
“I want you to go outside,” he said. “I want them to spend their time outdoors and spend money on it.”
Senior Writer Michael Salerno can be reached at 352-753-1119, extension. 5369, or [email protected]