Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account: Prototype Statistics for 2012-2016


by Tina Highfill and Tom Howells

 Wednesday, February 14th, 2018, The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis published their first annual report regarding the overall contribution of outdoor recreation to the U.S. economy. The report spanned the years 2012-2016. The 2019 edition of the study will be available on September 20th, 2019. Adding outdoor recreation to the list of explored economic areas increases the understanding of the U.S. Economy. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross feels that “Businesses need the right data to help them hire, invest and grow.” He felt the “historical lack of detailed federal data regarding outdoor recreational activities has handicapped both the private and public sectors.” The study reinforced this idea as the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2% ($373.7 billion) of current dollars to GDP in 2016. The outdoor recreation economy grew 3.8% in 2016 as compared to the 2.8% overall economic growth. This report breaks down where economic power is held in the category and highlights how it has grown over the years. 

The study breaks outdoor recreational spending into three categories. In 2016 conventional core activities (including activities such as bicycling, boating, hiking, and hunting) accounted for 36.7% of total gross output. Other core activities (including activities such as agritourism and outdoor festivals) accounted for 22.1%, and supporting activities (including construction, trips and travel, and government) accounted for 41.2%.

In conventional outdoor recreation activities, motorized Vehicles were the primary contributor of funds at $59.4 billion in 2016. Boating/ fishing contributed $38.2 million, Hunting/shooting/trapping activities contributed $15.4 billion. Multi-use apparel and accessories, such as backpacks and bug spray, accounted for 35% of all conventional outdoor recreational gross output. Retail trade was the largest contributor in the category at $81.7 billion added to the outdoor recreation economy.

This article is helpful as it provides concrete evidence that outdoor recreation is a serious industry and contributes substantially to the U.S. economy. It is also useful to understand where consumers are spending money. The article highlights that apparel and equipment are significant contributors.

Originally published by: The Bureau of Economic Analysis