Skip to Navigation

Study Shows Outdoor Recreation Generates $646 Billion in U.S.

For Immediate Release 6-11-12
Contact markeller [at] imba [dot] com (Mark Eller)
IMBA Communications Director
303-545-9011 ext. 115

The Western Governors' Association (WGA) and a coalition of outdoor industry groups today released a joint study documenting the continued growth and importance of outdoor recreation to the economies of the Western states and the nation. "The numbers are better than we expected," said Gov. Chris Gregoire, WGA's Chair. "We knew that outdoor recreation was a growth sector and that it creates jobs, but this study documents just how important it is to our national and Western economies."

With $646 billion in national sales and services in 2011, recreation dollars are nearly double the size of pharmaceuticals ($331 billion) and motor vehicles/parts ($340 billion). As another comparison, it powers the economy in a manner comparable to the financial services and insurance industry ($780 billion) and outpatient health care ($767 billion). In the West alone, recreation generates $256 billion according to the survey.

To supplement this broad look at outdoor recreation, IMBA offers online resources that document the economic impact of mountain biking in specific regions. Recent studies include:

"The idea of mountain biking as small, niche outdoor activity has been dispelled," said IMBA Executive Director Mike Van Abel. "Rural and suburban communities that invest in recreation infrastructure, especially trails, are seeing good returns on their investments — IMBA is proud to contribute to their success."

"WGA will continue working with our industry partners to release state-by-state data later this year on the economic impact of outdoor recreation," said Gov. Gary Herbert (Utah), WGA Vice Chair. "With this information states can consider policy that will help to create more businesses, jobs and income related to outdoor recreation."

This study marks the first time both the motorized and non-motorized sectors of the outdoor recreation industry have worked together to document the total size of the outdoor recreation economy. The firm Southwick and Associates surveyed households on actual expenditures on outdoor recreation then, based upon that data and modeling, generated the jobs, taxes, payroll and total economic impact.

Sally Jewell, chair of the Outdoor Industry Association, said, "This study confirms the significant contribution the outdoor recreation industry makes to the American economy and way of life. Going forward, the data should inform public policies that support growth within our local communities and that sustain the beauty of our natural treasures for current and future generations. Ultimately, we all want to inspire more people to experience the wonderful benefits that nature presents."

X