Americans spend more on outdoor recreation than pharmaceuticals, cars

According to the new Western Governors' Association’s Snapshot of the Economic Impact of Outdoor Recreation, Americans spent $646 billion on outdoor recreation in 2011 — 40 percent of which was spent in the West. SNEWS brings you the report’s highlights.

Americans spent more on outdoor recreation in 2011 than they did on cars, pharmaceuticals and gasoline.

According to the recently released Western Governors' Association’s Snapshot of the Economic Impact of Outdoor Recreation, U.S. consumers spent $646 billion on outdoor recreation in 2011, 40 percent of which was spent in the Western states.

The report, released last week at the WGA’s annual meeting in Cle Elum, Wash., noted that outdoor recreation directly employs 2.3 million people and generates nearly $31 billion in federal, state and local taxes.

SNEWS took a look at the report, a collaboration between Outdoor Industry Association, WGA, the Outdoor Foundation, the Motorcycle Industry Council, the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association and the National Marine Manufacturers Association, and identified the five most interesting things we found in it.

“The outdoor industry can continue to be a growing generator of jobs and an economic powerhouse,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president and CEO of OIA, in a news release. “To ensure this, we must invest in America’s parks, waters and trails as a national outdoor recreation system so that Americans have access to quality places to get outside and play.”

Per the report, economic impact isn’t measured only by what consumers purchase, but also in the manufacturing and sales of gear and other items vital to outdoor recreation.

Report Highlights

  • The economic impact of outdoor recreation doesn’t just come when people shop in your stores for their next outdoor adventure. It also includes the expenditures for that trip, including the hotel stay the night before a big excursion, gas, guides and park passes. 
  • The Western states, where several outdoor companies (including Active Interest Media’s Outdoor Group) are located, accounted for 40 percent — or $256 billion — of the $646 billion spent on outdoor recreation.
  • The report didn’t just study the economic impact of trail sports, winter sports, camping and water sports, but also included hunting, off-roading, biking, wildlife watching, fishing and motorcycle riding.
  • While activities like tailgating and special events such as the Sturgis motorcycle rally and USA Pro Cycling Challenge are not included in this economic report, those activities tend to boost spending in the outdoor industry. The USA Pro Cycling Challenge, which was in its inaugural year in 2011, was said to generate $83.5 million to its home state of Colorado in the one week it ran. Plus, the race’s large audience (the race was broadcast worldwide) brought visibility to the state and its wealth of outdoor recreation possibilities.
  • The report also didn’t include what foreign visitors spend in your stores and on other aspects of outdoor recreation.

Stay tuned to SNEWS for a recap on the Outdoor Industry Association’s “Outdoor Recreation Economy” report, which discusses the full economic impact of outdoor recreation in the United States. That report will be released on June 20, 2012.

--Ana Trujillo