The Bureau of Economic Analysis, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, released a report that estimates outdoor recreation was a $427.2 billion industry, responsible for about 2.2 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), in 2017 – and that the sector grew by 3.9 percent that year, outpacing the rate of overall U.S. economic growth that year by more than 50 percent.
This was also the first year the BEA attempted to break out outdoor recreation statistics by state. Those numbers showed Washington and Oregon have outdoors industries that are relatively proportionate to the industry’s share of the U.S. economy, while northern New England (Vermont, N.H., Maine) and the Rocky Mountains region (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah) rely more heavily on outdoor recreation as a percentage of their overall economy.
The Outdoors Industry Association has previously calculated the entire U.S. outdoors recreation industry could be as large as $850 billion annually, more than double GDP, if consumer spending on outdoor apparel, equipment that is manufactured overseas, and local travel is also taken into account, according to a related story on SNEWS, an industry trade magazine.
BEA’s 2017 analysis found boating and fishing -related activity, at $20.9 billion, comprised the largest portion of GDP. That was followed by RV -related activities, a $16.9 billion segment of the market. Motorcycles and ATVs ($9.1 billion), hunting, shooting and trapping ($8.8 billion), equestrian-related activities ($7.8 billion), and snow-related recreation ($5.6 billion) also made up a sizable share of GDP related to the outdoors economy.
One of the fastest growing segments identified in the report was in the guided tours and outfitted travel secotr, which accounted for $12.9 billion of GDP in 2017. The arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services combined contributed $112.9 billion to the GDP that year.
Outdoor Recreation satellite account, U.S. and prototype for states, 2017 (BEA press release): https://www.bea.gov/news/2019/outdoor-recreation-satellite-account-us-and-prototype-states-2017
Outdoor recreation is growing faster than the overall U.S. economy, government report finds (SNEWSnet.com): https://www.snewsnet.com/news/outdoor-recreation-427-billion