Outdoor Recreation Reaches 2 Percent of GDP

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Prototype statistics from the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA) released today by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) show that the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2.0 percent ($373.7 billion) of current-dollar GDP in 2016 (table 1). In addition, the outdoor recreation economy grew 3.8 percent in 2016, compared to growth of 2.8 percent in the overall economy.

“Businesses need the right data to help them hire, invest and grow. The historical lack of detailed federal data regarding outdoor recreational activities has handicapped both the private and public sectors. The public will no doubt be surprised at the economic importance of this industry as we release prototype statistics measuring the impact of activities like boating, fishing, RVing, hunting, camping, hiking, and more. This release is a milestone for business executives, small-business owners, entrepreneurs, and government officials, who will rely on these detailed data to plan, grow, and gain new insights into this dynamic part of the U.S. economy,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

The new account is the latest addition in a series of satellite accounts complementing BEA’s statistics, including accounts on travel and tourism and arts and cultural production. These accounts do not change BEA’s official statistics, including GDP. They provide greater detail and allow closer analysis of a specific area of the economy by extracting information embedded in the official economic statistics.

Outdoor Recreation by Activity

In the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account, gross output—principally a measure of sales or receipts associated with the outdoor recreation economy—is presented both by industry and by outdoor recreation activity. Outdoor recreation activities fall into three general categories: conventional core activities (including activities such as bicycling, boating, hiking, and hunting), other core activities (including activities such as agritourism and outdoor festivals), and supporting activities (including construction, trips and travel, and government). In 2016, conventional recreation accounted for 36.7 percent of total outdoor recreation gross output, other recreation accounted for 22.1 percent, and supporting activities accounted for the remaining 41.2 percent (table 2).

  • Motorized Vehicles was the largest activity within conventional outdoor recreation in 2016, accounting for $59.4 billion of gross output. Recreational vehicles accounted for more than half of this value at $30.0 billion.
  • Boating/Fishing activities were $38.2 billion in 2016, an increase of 4.0 percent from the previous year.
  • Hunting/Shooting/Trapping activities were $15.4 billion in 2016, with hunting accounting for over 60 percent of this value.
  • Multi-use apparel and accessories, which include backpacks, bug spray, and other general-purpose gear and accessories that could not be allocated to specific activities, grew 7.2 percent in 2016 and accounted for 35.0 percent of conventional outdoor recreation gross output.

Outdoor Recreation by Industry

Outdoor recreation value added is presented by industry in the ORSA and shows how an industry’s participation in the outdoor recreation economy contributes to GDP. For example, the data show that the retail trade, accommodation and food services, and manufacturing industries were the largest contributors to the outdoor recreation economy in 2016, accounting for half of all outdoor recreation activity (table 1).

  • For the retail trade industry, outdoor recreation value added was $81.7 billion and accounted for 21.9 percent of all activity in the outdoor recreation economy.
  • Outdoor recreation value added was $55.7 billion in accommodation and food services, with about 63 percent of this value coming from accommodations and 37 percent from food services and drinking places.
  • Outdoor recreation value added for manufacturing was $51.3 billion, primarily reflecting activity in the subcategories of petroleum and coal products and other transportation equipment.
  • Outdoor recreation value added was $47.4 billion in arts, entertainment, and recreation and accounted for 24.7 percent of that industry’s total value added.

Public comment and feedback

The public is invited to submit comments and feedback on these preliminary statistics by emailing OutdoorRecreation@bea.gov. Final statistics are scheduled for release in the fall of 2018, and feedback will be used to help finalize the definitions, data sources, and methodology that underpin the new account and the format in which final results are displayed. To ensure consideration, comments should be submitted no later than April 27, 2018.