Outdoors recreation is ‘big recreation’

This isn’t a blog about how expensive fishing, camping, hiking or participating in other traditional outdoor recreation has become. Compared to most recreational pursuits, it’s affordable. No wonder it’s so popular and its popularity is why it’s become “big recreation” in the same sense as big oil, big pharma or other big businesses.

It’s easy to recognize most business categories large and encompassing enough to be labeled “big.”  There’s a gas station at almost every intersection. Across the street is a pharmacy and probably a “name brand” bank nearby. You can’t say that about outdoor activities. So how big, comparatively, is the outdoor industry in the United States?

First the numbers:

Outdoor recreation accounted for $412 billion of the U.S. gross domestic product, representing 2.2 percent of the overall GDP. This translates to 4.5 million jobs with a compensation of $214 billion in the latest survey.

These are big numbers, but to many of us whose grasp of numbers don’t get much past the price per gallon of gasoline or how far away is that flock of ducks, numbers with “illions” in them aren’t meaningful. So how do these “illions” stack up to other sectors impacting our nation’s economy with which we are familiar?

Everyone eats food. Food is produced by farmers. Drive across Michigan (or much of the rest of the country) and you will see landscapes more or less dominated by farms. Outdoor recreation is bigger.

Almost everyone owns a cell phone, watches television and/or listens to the radio. The broadcasting/telecommunications industry represents an identical 2.2 percent of the USA’s GDP.

Almost everyone uses electricity produced by public utilities. I’m reminded of this every month when my electric bill shows up. You guessed it, outdoor recreation’s contribution to GDP is larger.

In a data-driven world, knowing the “numbers” is a crucial part of achieving success. In the halls of power in Washington, D.C., in Lansing and the other 49 state capitals, credible data carries extra weight when it comes to advancing policies and laws that benefit outdoor recreationists. That’s why the “Big Rec” numbers produced by the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis is important information for anyone who participates in outdoor recreation to know and be able to convey to their elected leaders.

For the BEA report, click here.

Categories: Michigan – Mike Schoonveld

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