New Government Data Supports Growing Outdoor Recreation Sector

February 16, 2018


For the first time ever, outdoor recreation’s contributions are being counted as a unique part of United States gross domestic product (GDP). The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released a preliminary look at United States GDP outputs from outdoor recreation. The analysis shows that growth in the outdoor industry continues to outpace growth of the economy as a whole and accounts for over 2 percent of the entire United States GDP.

The BEA prototype estimate finds that outdoor recreation contributed over $673 billion toward total U.S. gross output, which is the total value of domestic goods and services produced by an industry. This supports the $887 billion that consumers spend annually on outdoor recreation and confirms the national importance of investments in recreation funding and infrastructure. Importantly, this prototype estimate paints a clear picture that recreation is an important sector of the U.S. economy and that Americans’ desire to recreate outside is growing.

“While this is just the prototype estimate, and there will likely be changes here and there, we are extremely excited that outdoor recreation is now counted as an official U.S. industry and a major contributor to the U.S. economy — this further validates our broad and growing economic impact,” said Amy Roberts, executive director of Outdoor Industry Association. “We look forward to working with the Bureau of Economic Analysis over the next several months to include key criteria that will capture all the various ways outdoor recreation is an economic generator — whether one recreates close to home or travels across the country.”

How is the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) data different from the data in the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Outdoor Recreation Economy report?

The BEA prototype estimate measures “gross domestic product outputs” on the total value of domestic goods and services produced by an industry. The OIA study measures consumer spending on all gear-, apparel-, footwear- and equipment-related expenses and associated travel for outdoor recreation.

Also, BEA’s analysis does not measure travel expenses or associated recreation spending on close-to-home recreation or on trips that are less than 50 miles from a consumer’s home. In the OIA report, the research shows that more than two-thirds of outdoor recreation trips are within 50 miles of home and these close-to-home trips represent 67 percent of the $887 billion in consumer spending

A significant finding of the report is the dominance of motorized vehicle spending

This research concluded that motorized spending was the dominant portion of spending for recreational activity, and almost exceeded all other spending sources combined. The BEA report indicates, “Motorized Vehicles was the largest activity within conventional outdoor recreation in 2016, accounting for $59.4 billion of gross output. Recreational vehicles accounted for more than half of this value at $30.0 billion.”

See the links below to read the full report, as well as the Outdoor Industry Association’s article, including some helpful FAQs.

Additional Information

Read more from theBureau of Economic Analysis (BEA):

Read more from the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA):


Additional resources available at