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Outdoor Rec was 2.1% of the Nation’s GDP in 2019

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The Bureau of Economic Analysis released 2019 data showing that outdoor recreation generated $788 billion in economic output, supported 5.2 million jobs and comprised 2.1 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.

Boating and fishing topped the list in terms of conventional outdoor recreational activities and economic output. Combined, they were the largest conventional activity for the nation as a whole at $23.6 billion in current-dollar value added.

This was the largest conventional activity in 30 states and the District of Columbia and the second largest activity in 11 states, according to BEA. Florida ($3.3 billion), California ($2.0 billion), and Texas ($1.7 billion) were the largest contributors to U.S. value added.

“Boating and fishing are seeing significant retail growth this year; we’re seeing a lot of spending in retail activity,” said National Marine Manufacturers Association president Frank Hugelmeyer in a webinar on Tuesday to discuss the latest numbers. “The economic output is almost certain to grow in 2020 during Covid.”

The challenge will be whether the industry can ramp up production quickly enough to meet surging demand in light of supply chain hang-ups, said Hugelmeyer.

“There’s a 10 percent increase in retail sales that’s been trending out this year, but we’re 20 percent down in manufacturing output because of shutdowns and supply chain shortages,” said Hugelmeyer. “That’s not just boating. That’s across RV and other motorized sectors as well — anybody who’s trying to create an end product and has an input has dealt with supply chain disruption. It’s very difficult to see when that’s going to balance out, it’s going to be difficult to forecast because of that discrepancy we’re seeing.”

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“This year’s data on the impact of the outdoor recreation economy is reaffirming for the entire outdoor recreation industry, particularly after the last few months we have all had,” said Jessica Turner, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, in a separate statement. “The fact the industry generates $788 billion in output, comprises 2.1 percent of U.S. GDP and supports 5.2 million jobs is huge for the U.S economy, rural and gateway communities and Americans looking for jobs or to start a career in a growing and powerful industry. This, combined with the recent passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, bolsters the benefits of the outdoor recreation economy and our efforts to ensure all Americans have access to our public lands and waters.”

“It’s really that breadth of contributions that is especially notable,” said BEA’s Dirk van Duym during Tuesday’s webinar. “Really, I would say that’s the main thing [that stands out about the data]. I also think we see the contribution across states; it’s not only in the states that people typically think of. It’s helping economies across the country from that supply chain perspective.”

"In many ways, the uptick in outdoor recreation activity during the pandemic only reinforces the findings in the 2018 and 2019 data, showing that recreational boating, fishing, and the broader outdoor recreation industry are sectors we should further invest in as we look towards recovery," said Hugelmeyer. “This report provides invaluable insights about the role of the outdoor recreation industry in boosting regional economies all over the country and will be vitally important as we work with policymakers to provide meaningful investments and expand access to our nation's favorite pastimes."

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