Study: Outdoor recreation is ‘overlooked economic giant’

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A new study shows that the economic impact of outdoor recreation is nearly twice the size of the pharmaceutical industry.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association participated Sunday in the Western Governors Association annual meeting in Cle Elum, Wash., alongside a coalition of outdoor industry groups to discuss the significance of the recreation economy and release a joint study on the continued growth and importance of outdoor recreation to the economies of the Western states and the nation.

The study shows outdoor recreation is an overlooked economic giant, with $646 billion in national sales and services in 2011. That’s nearly double the size of pharmaceuticals ($331 billion) and motor vehicles/parts ($340 billion), the study showed.

Outdoor recreation powers the economy in a manner comparable to the financial services and insurance industry ($780 billion) and outpatient health care ($767 billion), the study showed.

In Western states, outdoor recreation generated $256 billion in sales and services in 2011, according to the NMMA.

"The numbers are better than we expected," Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, chairwoman of the Western Governors’ Association, said in a statement. "We knew that outdoor recreation was a growth sector and that it creates jobs, but this study documents just how important it is to our national and Western economies."

“The WGA report tells us that we are not only going to promote healthier lifestyles by focusing on outdoor recreation, but also support a key driver of jobs and economic growth in the nation and the West,” said Brunswick Corp. CEO Dustan McCoy, who participated in a panel discussion Monday.

Commissioned by the Western Governors Association and conducted by Southwick and Associates, the study marks the first time that the motorized and non-motorized sectors of the outdoor recreation industry have worked together to document the total size of the outdoor recreation economy. Southwick surveyed households on actual expenditures on outdoor recreation. Then, based on that data and modeling, it generated the jobs, taxes, payroll and total economic impact.

The NMMA will continue to work with the coalition to analyze and release state-by-state data later this year on the overall economic impact of outdoor recreation. The state-by-state data will help members of the outdoor recreation industry better inform policy-makers and the public about the size and significance of outdoor recreation to the economy in North America.

Click here for the full report.

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