Wisconsin’s outside recreation business sees document 12 months


WISCONSIN — State officials announced Thursday that Wisconsin’s outdoor recreation industry set a record, contributing $8.7 billion to the state’s gross domestic product in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

It’s a big jump, growing 14.1%. The country’s overall economy grew by 4.6%.

“From hunting and fishing to boating and paddling to snowboarding and skiing, outdoor recreation is part of who we are as a people and as a state – it improves our quality of life, attracts visitors from around the world, supports tens of thousands and serves as more important economic engine for communities across Wisconsin,” Gov. Tony Evers said in a press release. “I’m proud of our work to establish the Office of Outdoor Recreation and ensure this important industry recovers from the pandemic and these numbers are an excellent testament to this important work and the Office’s success.”

In 2021, the outdoor leisure industry supported around 90,000 jobs, representing a growth rate of 9.7%. Wisconsin ranks fourth nationwide for manufacturing jobs, which according to the data accounted for 10% of all outdoor recreation jobs over the past two years.

Tourism, along with local travel, contributed nearly $2.8 billion to Wisconsin’s GDP. From 2020 to 2021, the economic impact of local travel grew 7.2% to $771 million.

The top outdoor recreation categories that contributed to overall GDP include:

  • Utility Apparel & Accessories: $961 million
  • Motorcycling and ATVing: $882 million
  • Boating and Fishing: $602 million
  • Cycling: $451 million

Motorcycling and ATV’s are the #1 national rankings in Wisconsin, with bicycling #2.

“From creating jobs and increased profits for small businesses in the local economy to greater blessings for our national economy, this sector is a constant engine, even during times of economic uncertainty,” said Jessica Turner, president of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, a national coalition of outdoor leisure trade associations. “The strength of the outdoor recreation economy reflects what many in the industry have long recognized as true: There are endless benefits to be had as more people spend time outdoors, and they will only grow with continued investment.”