Federal Government Acknowledges Economic Contributions of Outdoor Recreation

Federal Government Acknowledges Economic Contributions of Outdoor Recreation

First-Ever Government Statistics Released on Industry’s Contribution to U.S. Economy

U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (center), U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis Director Brian Moyer (left), and U.S. Department of Interior Senior Advisor Rick May presented at the ORR briefing on Capitol Hill.

SEMA and other Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) member organizations welcomed a federal government final report documenting the significant economic impact of the outdoor recreation economy. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) found that the outdoor recreation industry contributed $412 billion to the nation’s economy in 2016 (the last available year of data), which represented 2.2% of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Of note, motorized recreation and motorcycling accounted for more than $20 billion in economic activity.

The ORR is comprised of more than 20 industry associations, including SEMA, representing off-roading, camping, fishing, boating, hiking, archery and other sports. The group provides a unified voice for outdoor recreation and is committed to pursuing federal policy reforms for rebuilding the nation’s recreation-related infrastructure and improving visitor experiences on the nation’s public lands. Critical to this mission, ORR is focused on helping lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and in state capitols around the country understand the economic contributions and value of outdoor recreation in communities from coast to coast. To effectively advocate for the industry, ORR members need to be able to provide sound data to policymakers that highlights the importance of the recreation economy.

The BEA report is a milestone for the outdoor recreation industry, which has long called for its sector to be formally included in government economic analysis. To mark the announcement, ORR held a Capitol Hill briefing with key federal officials, including U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, BEA Director Brian Moyer, and U.S. Department of Interior Senior Advisor Rick May.

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“Thanks to the work of our team at the Bureau of Economic Analysis and many of you in the outdoor recreation industry, our country now knows just how big and important your industry is to the U.S. economy,” said Ross. “The outdoor recreation industry generated $412 billion in revenue in 2016, accounting for 2.2% of U.S. GDP in 2016. That is a very, very large number. To put this industry in perspective, it is a bigger contributor to GDP than the chemical manufacturing sector at 2.1% and all the nation’s utilities at 1.5% of GDP.”

For SEMA members, the range of products associated with outdoor recreation goes beyond the 4WDs, ATVs and UTVs often linked with off-roading. It includes tires, wheels, suspension, tuning and myriad other products for highway vehicles and for towing trailers, boats and other vehicles to their destinations.

“With more than 30 million ATV and ROV riders in America, it comes as no surprise that motorized recreation is a leading contributor to the outdoor recreation economy,” said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting. “The off-highway vehicle market continues to expand at an impressive clip. The BEA’s report stated that motorized recreation represents one of the fastest-growing activities, expanding by 8% from the previous year.”

The genesis of the BEA’s report dates to 2015, when the U.S. Departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce negotiated a one-time assessment of the economic stature of the outdoor recreation industry. Contributions from the agencies totaling approximately $1 million were provided to the BEA to create an Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA). Congress later ratified that action with passage of the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016, which was championed by U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and U.S. Representative Don Beyer (D-VA). The action should help ensure that the BEA report becomes an annual recognition on the value of the outdoor recreation industry to the U.S. economy.

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