Outdoor recreation is an economic powerhouse in the United States, generating $646 billion in consumer spending and 6.1 million direct jobs each year. In many rural areas, hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing have fueled rural tourism, fueled business growth and contributed to our economic resilience.
Colorado’s outdoor recreation industry generates $9.6 billion in GDP value added annually and added 120,000 direct jobs in 2020. According to the 2017 SCORP report, 92% of Colorado residents participate in outdoor recreation each year. Colorado’s outdoor economy contributes to a better quality of life and makes people and communities happier and healthier. It is estimated that outdoor recreation in the state of Colorado generates $62 billion in economic revenue.
The well-being and livelihood of Eagle County’s residents and economy are closely linked to the many outdoor recreation facilities in our area. Eagle County’s rivers and snowmelt runoff support not only agriculture and ranching, but also a vibrant year-round recreational economy. However, our outdoor recreation economy is about much more than just our ski industry.
The ski industry is an iconic and integral part of Eagle County’s economy, providing thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic revenue. The ski industry is closely related to other major industries in Eagle County, including lodging, hospitality, retail, and real estate and rentals.
Eagle County has long been focused on the outdoor recreation business through our tourism and recreation economy. We are increasingly seeing an increase in outdoor recreation that is consistent with, but outside of, the direct impacts of tourism. This helps diversify our economy and provides primary jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities. Despite all that our community has achieved in the past, we are focused on creating new opportunities for success today and a bright future tomorrow.
Our ski industry, along with our burgeoning outdoor recreation industry, contributes to economic development and diversification in mountain communities. The profitability is simple and convincing. Consumers spend more on outdoor recreation than they do on pharmaceuticals, automobiles, parts, or gasoline and fuels. Outdoor recreation employs 7.6 million people, more than computer technology, construction, finance and insurance. This is particularly good news for us in Eagle County, as outdoor recreation is an important contributor to our economy and aligns with the strong foundation provided by our tourism economy.
Our approach to outdoor recreation and our growing outdoor recreation industry supports entrepreneurship and talent attraction and retention. Access to nature and a high quality of life are attracting and retaining new businesses and a skilled workforce, and an increase in gear manufacturing and other lifestyle economy opportunities.
Vail Valley Partnership is partnering with the CU Boulder Office of Outdoor Recreation Economy to host an Outdoor Industry Summit on August 22nd. This summit will feature a discussion on strategies to balance outdoor recreation and conservation of natural resources, ways to grow and sustain the outdoor industry in our region, as well as panel and table discussions on key outdoor recreation industry issues. Panel discussions will focus on the outdoor industry and destination stewardship, and table talks will be held on topics such as finance, supply chain challenges, branding, DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) and of course the workforce.
Our vision for Eagle County is to support a vibrant economy, which includes our outdoor recreation businesses, and businesses need support that fosters collaboration, sustainable growth and innovation. The outdoor recreation industry, like so many of our businesses, needs a talent pipeline to build a skilled workforce for future jobs and careers. Join us on August 22nd to be part of this effort.
Chris Romer is President and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com