U.S. Outdoor Recreation Is a Booming Business

Arthur Zaczkiewicz

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Consumers are apparently playing more outside, and the economy is seeing a boost as a result. Outdoor recreation swelled 3.9 percent in 2017 (the latest year of data available), “faster than the 2.4 percent growth of the overall U.S. economy,” the Bureau of Economic Analysis said.

“The U.S. outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2.2 percent [$427.2 billion] of current-dollar gross domestic product in 2017,” the BEA said, adding that real gross output, “compensation, and employment all grew faster in outdoor recreation than for the economy as a whole.”

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The economic trend supports what retail analysts have noted for some time: Consumers are increasingly seeking experiences, which includes activities within the outdoor recreation market. In apparel, companies such as Columbia, Orvis, L.L. Bean and Eddie Bauer have stepped up marketing efforts and repositioned their brands to lure in shopper dressing for adventure. More recently, J.C. Penney said it was opening up a men’s outdoor shop, anchored by its St. John’s Bay brand.

Related story: J.C. Penney to Open Men’s Outdoor Shops

In a separate report from Researchandmarkets.com, the firm said the “global adventure tourism market was valued at $444.9 million in 2016, and is projected to reach $1,335,738 million in 2023, registering a [compounded annual growth rate of 17.4 percent from 2017 to 2023].”

The authors of the report cited social media as inducing a desire to travel, and as a result, bolstering adventure tourism. The firm defined adventure tourism “as traveling outside a person’s regular environment.”

“Adventure travel may involve various adventurous activities such as caving, climbing, cycling, hiking, hunting, rafting and others,” they stated. “Tourism is one of the most rapidly growing sectors, while adventure tourism is one of its fastest-growing segments.”

In the BEA report today, the agency noted that outdoor recreation activities are “grouped into three categories: conventional core activities (such as camping, hiking, boating, and hunting); other core activities (such as gardening and outdoor concerts), and supporting activities (such as construction, travel and tourism, local trips and government expenditures).” The conventional core activities garnered 30.6 percent of the total economy of the market while other core activities made up 19.3 percent and supporting activities represented 50.1 percent.

The BEA also said retail trade was “the second-largest sector contribution to outdoor recreation nationally, accounting for $95.7 billion of current-dollar value-added.”

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