The Outdoor Recreation Economy 2019

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released statistics today measuring the outdoor recreation economy for the nation, all 50 states, and the District of Columbia. The new U.S. data show that the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2.1 percent ($459.8 billion) of current-dollar gross domestic product (GDP) for the nation in 2019. At the state level, outdoor recreation value added as a share of state GDP ranged from 5.8 percent in Hawaii to 1.3 percent in Connecticut. The share was 1.1 percent in the District of Columbia.

If you enjoyed those numbers, you can find lots more in the full document the agency issued as a press release. There are also several charts. I found two of them the most interesting:

How dependent are state economies on outdoor recreation?

The above map shows how important outdoor recreation is to each of the states. The darkest blue states are those that are most economically dependent upon outdoor recreation. As you can see, with the exception of Florida, these are states with relatively low populations and smaller economies. They are also states that outdoor enthusiasts like to visit.

What are the most economically important outdoor recreation activities in the U.S.?

The above chart reveals which activities contribute the most to the economy of the U.S. You will note that, not only do a lot of people participate in these activities, the most expensive activities contribute the most to the economy. You might think of snow activities as sledding, snowball fights, or making snow angels. When it comes to economic impacts it means skiing (especially downhill skiing), snowboarding and snowmobiling.

Walking or hiking is not even listed on the chart. The BEA combines climbing, hiking, and tent camping and reports a value of about $3.5 Billion 2019 dollars. You don’t really need to spend a lot of money to go climbing, hiking, or tent camping. Nonetheless, because a lot of people partake of these activities, the economic impact rises into the billions of dollars.

If you want to help the U.S. outdoor recreation economy, choose any activity, gear up (buy locally and try to purchase U.S. made equipment), then get out there and have some fun!

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