WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, a coalition of organizations including the American Sportfishing Association, RV Industry Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Outdoor Industry Association and Motorcycle Industry Council met this week to discuss the state of the outdoor recreation industry while outlining member survey results on the impact of COVID-19 on the industry conducted in conjunction with Oregon State University.
“We were ranked in May by the U.S. Census Bureau as the second most impacted industry,” said Lindsey Davis, vice president of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “We were second to food and restaurants, hit 31% harder than the national average.”

Key data from the meeting is as follow:

  • 88% of business laid off or furloughed employees and 23,000 businesses surveyed were experiencing problems with production.
  • Amazon, Walmart and Target are gaining market share in tents and outdoor gear.
  • 81% of Americans have spent time outside during the pandemic, 31% of which has spent it outside for the first time.
  • RV sales and boat sales are up compared to pre-pandemic levels.
  • 80% of outfitters and guides have been able to operate on some level, many are seeing increased demand but face a shorter season to make up profit losses.
  • Campers have leaned on dispersed campsites in the wake of closings at managed campsites.
  • ATV and motorcycle sales are up.
  • RV sales are down 10% compared to 2019, but van camper sales are up 49%.

“Fishing license sales are up almost across the board,” added Mike Leonard, American Sportfishing Association vice president of government affairs. “States are reporting significant increases in resident licenses. Pennsylvania reported almost 20% increase, Iowa was 33%, New Hampshire 40%. On the industry side, after a rough April and March we are seeing license trends translate into sales. Pretty much any fishing tackle store from big box stores to indepenenetd you will see empty shelves. Some of that is demand and some is supply.”

By and large, Leonard says fishing tackle manufacturers are reporting “really good trends in sales.”

“We are not only seeing people investing more in fishing tackle,” he adds. “But we are also seeing investments in larger purchases like RVs and boats that we tend to believe are more long term lifestyle investments in the outdoors.” Leonard says the ASA hopes the fishing industry can retain those buyers as long term customers.

On the boating side, National Marine Manufacturers Association communications director John Michael Donahue says despite supply chain disruptions, sales of fishing boats are powering a surging boating industry. “Overall the batting industry is experiencing record sales,” says Donahue. “We are bullish on our outlook here. People are looking for safe and responsible ways to enjoy a little responsible R&R. New powerboat retail sales were up 59% in May compared to April. Year-over-year sales are up 20% over 2019. Sportfishing boats and small outboard boats are leading the trend, which shows people are interested in entry-level products.”

Donahue says the NMMA is confident the trend will continue into summer 2022 and beyond.