An Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) member survey, in partnership with the Oregon State University Outdoor Recreation Economy Initiative, finds that the outdoor recreation industry is facing dramatically decreased sales and revenue, difficulties with production and distribution, and large numbers of furloughs and layoffs.

ORR surveyed its member trade associations representing over 100,000 businesses from RVing and camping to boating and fishing to hunting and biking businesses about the impacts their organizations and member companies have felt since the pandemic began. According to the responses of the 20 participating national outdoor recreation trade associations, representing businesses with nearly two million employees, the impact is startling:

  • Of the businesses this survey represents, 89%, are experiencing difficulty with production and distribution, with 68% experiencing significant impacts.
  • 79% of these businesses have laid off or furloughed a portion of their workforce, with 11% closing, or laying off most of or all of their staff.
  • 89% of outdoor industry businesses are experiencing a decrease in sales with 39% seeing a decrease of 50% to 75% or greater.
  • 80% of outdoor industry trade associations are seeing a decrease in revenue with 30% seeing a decrease of 50% to 75% or greater.

“We knew there have been tremendous impacts to our members and to the entire outdoor recreation industry, but our survey results show the traumatic impact on every sector and to the heart of this once-thriving economic engine,” said Jessica Wahl, executive director at ORR. “Just a few short months ago outdoor recreation was growing faster than almost any other industry, contributed over $778 billion to the U.S. economy and employed over 5.2 million Americans. To see that 79% of outdoor businesses have had to lay off or furlough employees and that 89% are seeing decreased revenue is jaw-dropping.”

Typically, a point of pride for the outdoor industry is its connection and relationship with rural and “gateway” communities but unfortunately because fewer Americans are able to recreate in these places, and retail is closed, rural communities are suffering, according to the survey. National unemployment data verifies that some recreation-based communities are seeing disproportionate increases in unemployment averaging 57% in Colorado and 25% in New Mexico.

This is why ORR says it is working tirelessly on smart fixes to the CARES Act to help more small businesses in our sector and urging Congress to take further action to help the outdoor recreation industry and our rural partners by passing the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) as soon as possible. GAOA includes essential funding for the maintenance backlog on our public lands that will help to stimulate local communities. It also provides full funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, ensuring that projects that bolster recreation dependent communities across the country will get done as Americans seek to get outside away from crowds and practice safe social distancing and healthy outdoor recreation in the coming months.

“A significant portion of RV Industry Association’s revenue comes from seals placed on RVs as they are built. With the vast majority of RV production shut down for the past month as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the association has seen a significant drop in revenue,” said RV Industry Association Vice President of Government Affairs Jay Landers. “The strong position of the RV industry heading into the crisis as well the potential for RVs to be the ideal way to travel while adhering to social distancing once it is safe to travel again could mitigate the long-term impact on the industry. But for now, we are hurting along with so many across the country.”

“Unprecedented is an overused term right now, but most of our 5,000 individual members are out of work and all of our business members are shuttered. Perhaps worse is that nobody knows when they’ll be able to return to guiding,” Alex Kosseff with American Mountain Guide Association. “We’re working on a dynamic, creative, and compassionate response to best support our members through this time but many of the return to work decisions are made more difficult by conflicting guidance and requirements from land managers, state, and local governments.”

ORR will continue to share additional data and survey responses on a monthly basis from the outdoor recreation industry and additional sector respondents.

To learn more about the ORR, click here.