Outside recreation is $862 billion business


Nature is big business. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), part of the US Department of Commerce, recently released economic data on outdoor recreation for 2021. They show that outdoor recreation was responsible for $862 billion in economic output and 4.5 million jobs. That is 1.9 percent of our country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The impact of COVID on outdoor recreation has been tremendous. It gave enthusiasts more opportunities to spend time outdoors, but it also pushed those who rarely ventured outside into new sports and pastimes. Record sales were recorded in many outdoor segments.

Travel restrictions have taught us to look for ways to recover closer to home. Now we are on the road again and many people are eager to visit destinations where they can participate in their startup activities.

In a press release from the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR), Frank Hugelmeyer, President of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and current ORR Board Chair, said: “The past year has been one for the outdoor recreation industry, and today’s release of data from the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account underscores the fact that boating and time spent on our nation’s waterways is a popular American pastime. Since 2020, the recreational boating, fishing and outdoor recreation industries at large have spearheaded a national recovery, welcoming millions of families to experience the significant health benefits of the great outdoors while being a major economic driver and job generator.”

Athletes can be guilty of staying in our hunting and fishing silos. We may not be thinking how broad the outdoor recreation industry is.

Boating isn’t just for fishing. All these ski boats and pontoon boats are affecting the economy. So don’t be too mad if they fly by while you’re fishing a bunch of bush. Hope they give you some space. When it comes to conservation funding, we really are all on the same page.

“We’ve seen record growth in camping and boating in recent years, with millions of people enjoying RVs and boats to meet with family and friends, relax and recharge and experience the great outdoors,” said Michael Happe, President and CEO of Winnebago Industries. “The record-breaking 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 and look forward to maintaining this momentum as we continue to develop recreation infrastructure and improve access for all.”

Camping is the origin of my love for nature. When I was growing up, we always had an RV. Potato Creek, Tippecanoe, and Turkey Run State Parks in Indiana are the wild places where my love for wildlife was born. We spent hours on bikes, on bridle paths and looking for deer. Going camping is generally associated with other outdoor activities.

“The continued strength of the outdoor economy comes as no surprise to the marine industry, where we continue to see incredible growth with new and younger customers embracing our brands each year,” said Chris Drees, President of Mercury Marine, the world’s leading manufacturer of Propulsion engines for pleasure boats. “We will continue to work closely with our partners in the outdoor recreation community to promote the benefits of being on the water.”

Through social media, we can all share stories and inspire others to get outside. We can educate and inform friends and followers about special places and new ways to experience nature. Outdoor media plays a role in spreading opportunities.

“Our members, which include more than 600 outdoor media outlets across the country, have seen an explosion of interest in outdoor activities in recent years – including expanded mainstream media coverage of outdoor recreation,” said Katie McKalip, President of Outdoor Writers Association of America. “It’s been great to be able to reach even more people to inspire them to get outside – and ultimately help preserve our precious outdoor spaces.”

The great outdoors is open to business. Whether you are a hunter or an angler, a bird watcher or a boater, you are fortunate to live in this country where our special brand of freedom allows us to enjoy our public lands and waters.

See you on the way. …


Brandon Butler is an outdoor columnist for the News Tribune. Contact him at [email protected]