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Outdoor recreation sector delivered ‘powerful and positive’ impact on US economy in 2020


A major report has highlighted the ‘powerful and positive’ economic impact of the outdoor recreation sector – including an ‘extraordinary’ year for fishing – on the US economy.

Data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reveals that outdoor recreation generated $688 billion in economic output in 2020, comprises 3% of US employees and creates 4.3 million jobs.

Key highlights from 2020 data on the outdoor recreation economy include:

● Outdoor recreation generated $688 billion in gross output during a year of shutdowns and closures and 4.3 million jobs in communities across the country.

● Industry segments like boating and fishing, biking, camping and RVing, hunting and shooting sports, and power sports experienced record sales and unprecedented growth.

● 2020 was one of the toughest years in recent history. With so much isolation and loss, the outdoors was something we could all turn to in order to connect with our families and friends and maintain physical and mental health.

● The ‘Transportation and Warehousing’ category decreased 62.37% from 2019 to 2020.

● Declines in travel and tourism had an outsized impact on outdoor recreation’s overall economic activity; related outdoor segments may continue to struggle. 

● Outdoor participation soared, especially close-to-home recreation, highlighting the importance of better access to the outdoors for all communities. 

● Americans’ prioritisation of outdoor recreation continues into 2021 with strong numbers in participation and sales data.

“As the BEA numbers indicate, 2020 was an extraordinary year for recreational fishing,” said Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association and ORR’s Vice Chairman. “When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, people turned to the outdoors like never before. We saw a big uptick in fishing participation from families with children as well a new generation of young anglers. That’s why it is so important that we continue to increase and improve access to our public lands.”

“COVID-19 inspired huge participation growth in 2020, as outdoor spaces became places of refuge to safely socialise, improve physical and mental health, connect with family and recover from screen fatigue,” said Lise Aangeenbrug, Executive Director of the Outdoor Industry Association. “In 2020, 53 percent of Americans aged six and over participated in outdoor recreation at least once, the highest participation rate on record. Remarkably, 7.1 million more Americans participated in outdoor recreation in 2020 than in the year prior. Early indications are this trend continued into 2021 and sales data comparing August 2020 to August 2021 show that the sales of tents, backpacks, coolers and camping equipment, trail running shoes and other outdoor gear are up more than 20 percent year over year.”

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