State Outdoor Recreation Value Added as a Percent of State GDP, 2021

The Outdoor Recreation Economic Data Report from the Outdoor Recreational Roundtable (ORR) sparked an optimistic discussion yesterday (Nov. 9) in a webinar open to the media.

The Department of Commerce Data showcased record-breaking numbers for 2021 with the outdoor recreation industry topping $826 billion in economic output. The online meeting of the ORR held in Washington, D.C., with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) formally released the economic data from 2021 exhibiting outdoor recreation’s powerful and positive economic impact on the U.S. economy.

The new numbers show outdoor recreation also generates 4.5 million jobs contributing more to the U.S. economy than oil and gas extraction, mining and agriculture. The report includes national and state-level data. This is the fifth consecutive year that BEA has released government data on this critical industry sector.

It was noted in the roundtable that the outdoor recreation economy bounced back stronger after the COVID-19 pandemic and remained a steady source of strength nationally. Highlights from the 2021 data on the outdoor recreation economy documented the industry’s $862 billion represents 1.9% of GDP. It showed that trips and travel are coming back with record sales in many outdoor segments as manufacturing increased.Conventional Outdoor Recreation Categories, Current Dollar Value Added

“The good news here is that first-time buyers for RVs are in the 30% range,” said Michael Happe, president and CEO of Winnebago Industries, who represents the RV industry on the ORR. “More good news is that 86% of those first-time buyers said in 2021 that their RV experience meets or exceeds their expectations. This bodes well for our industry moving forward for repurchasing events and further participation.”

Happe also said in the meeting that the leaders in the RV industry are excited to see increased diversity in those participating in the RV lifestyle.

“More than 50% of the new RV owners in 2021 were non-Caucasian,” he said. “which begins to reflect some of the broader trends in American society.”

“The BEA data underscores how important it is to invest in public lands, waters and recreation infrastructure from coast to coast and for recreation activities of all types,” said Jessica Turner, president of the ORR. “From the creation of jobs and increased profit for small businesses in local economies to larger boons to our national economy, this sector is a consistent driver, even in times of economic uncertainty. The strength of the outdoor recreation economy reflects what many in the industry have long known to be true. There are infinite benefits that come from more people spending time outdoors.”

Change in Outdoor Recreation Compared with Change in U.S. Economy, 2021

“We have seen record growth in camping and boating over the past couple of years, with millions of people enjoying RVs and boats to connect with family and friends, to relax and recharge, and to experience nature,” said Happe. “The record 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, so we look forward to maintaining this momentum by developing recreation infrastructure and increasing access for all.”

“This data solidifies what we have seen over our sixty-year history – that there is intrinsic value in the outdoors,” said Toby O’Rourke, president and CEO of Kampgrounds of America, Inc. “Over 20 million new households started camping since 2020 with six in ten planning to continue. We are increasingly seeing camping and the outdoors vacation becoming a preferred form of travel.”

Read the full report and release of the newest numbers at www.recreationroundtable.org.