BEA outdoor recreation report

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) just released data about the outdoor recreation industry that revealed a market worth more than $370 billion, and is growing at a faster pace than the GDP.

In its “prototype statistics” report, the BEA said the outdoor recreation economy swelled 3.8 percent in 2016, which compares to GDP growth of 2.8 percent. The biggest portion of the market is in the retail trade segment, which the BEA said “added was $81.7 billion and accounted for 21.9 percent of all activity in the outdoor recreation economy.”

The data supports what retail analysts and economists have noted for the past two years: consumers are spending more money on experiential-related purchases than on traditional apparel, luxury items and accessories. The BEA said in the report that “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 percent of conventional outdoor recreation gross output.”0

The growth of the outdoor products market was recently reflected at last month’s Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show in Denver, which organizers say is the largest U.S. trade show for the outdoor and winter sports industries. There were more than 29,000 attendees, which included 7,500 verified retail buyers from more than 60 countries. More than 1,000 brands were on exhibit. The event has doubled in size in just the past two years.

Aside from retail trade, the BEA said $55.7 billion in accommodation and food services was generated in the market, “with about 63 percent of this value coming from accommodations and 37 percent from food services and drinking places.” The manufacturing portion of the industry totaled $51.3 billion, “primarily reflecting activity in the subcategories of petroleum and coal products and other transportation equipment.” Other contributors included $47.4 billion in the arts, entertainment and recreation segment, which accounted for 24.7 percent of the total.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that 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.”

The BEA noted that outdoor recreation activities are categorized in three “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).”

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