Outdoor Recreation Roadmap

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The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable – comprised of 32 national associations representing more than 110,000 businesses nationwide – has released “A Roadmap For A 21st Century Outdoor Recreation Economy” to frame discussions around the critical importance of this economic sector.

“ORR members represent large and small businesses in every corner of our country – rural, suburban and urban areas,” said ORR executive director Jessica Turner in a statement released by National Marine Manufacturers Association, one of the group’s members.

ORR’s revitalization agenda includes four main components, each with specific action items:

• Recreation infrastructure investments to meet increasing demand and create jobs throughout the nation that grow local economies;

• Improve recreation access to public lands and waters and ensure equity and inclusion;

• Sound conservation policies that help sustain our recreational areas for future generations, including helping manage the impacts of climate change;

• Free and fair-trade policies and practices that ignite innovation and manufacturing.

The outdoor recreation industry is well positioned to play a big role in the country’s economic recovery post Covid-19, due to the fact that more people are looking to outdoor pursuits during the pandemic.

“We know that supporting our outdoor recreation economy will drive a national business growth agenda,” said Turner. “Our sector was thriving before the pandemic took hold, and we haven’t been immune to the adverse effects of the virus. However, as more and more Americans seek respite in the great outdoors, this sector will recover and make America even stronger.”

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis found that outdoor recreation contributed 2.2 percent to the Gross Domestic Product before Covid-19 struck — generating $778 billion in economic output and employed 5.2 million people, including significant numbers of jobs in rural areas.

The sector was growing faster than the economy as a whole in every indicator and was larger than many sectors, including agriculture, mining and utilities and chemical products manufacturing.

In the last six months, 90 percent of businesses have experienced sales drops — some by as much as 75 percent — nearly eight in 10 have cut jobs or furloughed employees; and nearly 90 percent report difficulties with production and distribution, according to ORR.

Still, outdoor recreation has increased in popularity since the pandemic, with 80 percent of Americans reporting they participate in outdoor activities. One third of them say they’re doing this for the first time.

The numbers are impressive: sales of bikes and bike products are up 81 percent from May 2019 levels; resident fishing license sales are up 10 percent nationwide; boat sales are back to pre-pandemic levels; over 40,000 RVs were shipped in June; and new off-highway motorcycle sales saw a 50 percent increase in the first half of the year.

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