According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a 2016 survey found that 101.6 million Americans participate in hunting, fishing, and other wildlife-related activities, which amounts to roughly 40% of the entire U.S. population. As a whole, because of its sheer popularity, the U.S. outdoor recreation industry generates an annual $887 billion in consumer spending — more than half of which directly impacts the economy in a positive manner.
According to Market Watch, a new government report shows that the outdoor recreation sector accounts for a total of $412 billion in economic activity, approximately $40 billion more than previous estimates reported. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysts released data including public feedback in order to show more accurate assessments of how the industry stands with the rest of the economy.
“The outdoor recreation economy impacts many industries,” said Tom Howells, associate director for industry accounts at the BEA. “Outdoor recreation was always captured in the BEA’s GDP reports. The issue is that outdoor recreation was spread out and hidden.”
The original market reports show that the outdoor recreation sector accounted for 2% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — approximately $373.7 billion. While in fact, the sector represents 2.2% of the GDP. Additionally, since the overall economy has grown over the last two years, the outdoor recreation economy grew faster, as well, at a rate of 1.7%. The report also stated that compensation for the industry increased at a rate of 4.3%, as well, compared to compensation for the rest of the U.S. economy, which only grew at a rate of 2.7%.
“We knew for a long time that we are a large industry which is growing very fast,” added Jessica Wahl, director of government affairs at the Outdoor Industry Association. “When the government finally says so too, we know that it matters.”
Specifically, the fall season is a great time for outdoor recreation facilities, organizations, and small businesses. Though many people believe that the summer and even winter are great for people who love the outdoors thanks to the endless possibilities summer has and all the snowy fun that can be had in the winter, fall is actually a more popular time for some businesses that promote outdoor recreation.
According to the Idaho State Journal, fall is when hunting permits begin arriving in the mail and when people start gearing up for deer season.
“This is the time of year when things start to ramp up,” said Paul Payne, owner of Ross Coin and Gun. “When school starts and the weather starts getting colder, people starting thinking about hunting supplies.”
For some sporting goods shops, fall accounts for as much as 30% of the store’s yearly revenue, since the colder weather helps people get excited about the upcoming outdoor activities.
“Fall is very busy,” added Chloe Freeman, Special Events Coordinator for Cabela’s. “Camo clothing, optics, trail cameras, firearms, archery… everything a hunter could possibly need. A lot of hunters come in to get scopes mounted, bows teched, knives sharpened, [in order] to be prepared for their upcoming hunts.”
Whether you’re looking at the industry during a yearly scale or during smaller week-to-week periods over the fall, one thing is for sure: the outdoor recreation industry is thriving.