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Published on September 12th, 2013 | by Pat


The Great Outdoors: An Economic Giant

OIA Report Puts Outdoor Industry at the Heart of the Economy

BOULDER, CO — The Outdoor Industry Association, the leading trade association for the outdoor industry, released a report in 2012 on the state of outdoor recreation and its place in the U.S. economy at large.

Outdoor recreation is no longer a “nice to have,” it is now a “must have.”

The report examines the impact of outdoor recreation professional sectors — this could be anything from the owner of your local bike shop to a Ranger at Yosemite, even to us lowly outdoor bloggers — on the U.S. economy as a whole, including consumer spending, job creation, and tax revenue, among other factors.

The results? The numbers are more than promising — they’re downright impressive. But not surprising. Here’s a run-down:

According to the report, the outdoor recreation sector:

  • provides 6.1 million jobs
  • yields $646 billion (yes, billion) in annual spending
  • provides $80 billion in annual federal, state, and local tax revenue
  • showed a growth of approximately 5% between 2005-2011, during a period of overall economic decline
  • boosted local economies surrounding state parks with a collective $20 billion toward local businesses
  • when considering “ripple effect” impact beyond the outdoor sector, provides $1.6 trillion (yes, again… trillion) in residual spending and 12 million jobs

Sure, these numbers are impressive in their own right, but when placed within the broader context of the U.S economy as a whole, things get really cool. Just look at these charts!

oia chart - outdoor recreation big biz

Beaten out only by the financial/insurance and the health care sectors. Not too shabby…

But there’s more. Look at all these jobs:

oia chart - job comparisons

The OIA report attributes these numbers to a variety of causes, but one factor seems to take center stage:

“At the core of the outdoor recreation economy is the outdoor consumer, whose diverse interests fuel a robust and innovative industry. Today’s outdoor lovers aren’t confined to traditional demographics or activity segments. They seek meaningful outdoor experiences in their backyards and in the backcountry. They are all genders, ages, shapes, sizes, ethnicities and income levels… This is redefining the outdoor industry, an evolution that is evident in the growth of sales and jobs since 2006.”

Most importantly, though, the report observes that “outdoor recreation is no longer a ‘nice to have,’ it is now a ‘must have.'”

Coming from someone on the inside, that’s some nice news to hear!

Here’s a link to the full report.

All graphics via Outdoor Industry Association.


Want to do your part to contribute to this flourishing sector of the U.S. economy? Well, we just happen to know some folks who’d love to be your guide out on the trail. Be sure to check out Menasha Ridge Press and Wilderness Press, leading the industry in leisure- and backcountry-hiking guidebooks for nearly 50 years.


About the Author

is happiest when he's on the move, whether by foot, pedal, or some other form of alternative transportation. Hiking, biking, camping, and rock climbing demand his outdoor attention at all times. Now, as editor and contributor to, they demand his indoor attention, as well.

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