Outside enjoyable can be huge enterprise in New York, report finds

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Having fun outdoors is good business for New York, as hiking, boating and fishing bring billions of dollars to the state’s economy, according to a recent report released by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.

But like every other economic sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor recreation took a hit early in the public health crisis, although it didn’t decline as dramatically as other industries.

Overall, outdoor recreation generated $21.1 billion in economic activity during the first year of the 2020 pandemic, supporting more than 241,000 jobs and $13.1 billion in compensation. Most of these jobs can be found in the arts, entertainment, and hospitality sectors.

While outdoor recreation accounts for only a fraction of New York’s GDP, New York ranks in the top 10 states in a variety of facets, including second place for outdoor festivals, concerts and sports; third party in camping and hiking; and fourth in boating and fishing and amusement parks.

And even as more and more people started holding outdoor events and embraced hiking and boating during the pandemic, the outdoor leisure sector of the economy was still being negatively impacted by the COVID pandemic.

Economic activity fell by 21.5% in 2020, and activities involving large groups of people fell by 36%. Major events such as sports, festivals and concerts – many of which have been canceled amid the pandemic – fell by 53%, according to the report.

This, in turn, led to a decline in leisure, hospitality and transportation jobs. These jobs suffered the largest job losses during the pandemic in New York, as tourism fell dramatically in 2019-2020.

Still, the economy around the great outdoors didn’t decline like most other industries in the state. And some things like boating and fishing, as well as hiking and camping, have actually increased. In particular, water activities increased by 31% in 2020.

“While the pandemic has caused both visitor numbers and tourism spending to fall, it has also resulted in a shift towards conventional outdoor leisure activities. These activities have been less restricted and perceived as safer than indoor activities and gatherings during the pandemic,” the report said.