Report: Outdoor recreation beats pharmaceuticals for consumer spending

Text Source: Outdoor Industry Association – OIA_RecEconomy_FINAL_Single.pdf; Chart Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, Personal Consumption Expenditures by Type of Product

BOULDER — The outdoor recreation industry has an $887 billion impact on consumer spending annually, according to a report released Tuesday by the Outdoor Industry Association.

In the U.S., 7.6 million jobs stem from outdoor recreation, as does $65.3 billion in federal tax revenue and $59.2 billion in state and local tax revenue.

The report is the third edition of its kind from Boulder-based OIA, and had a 70 percent increase in survey responses from the previous study.

The report found that the $887 billion industry has more consumer spending than pharmaceuticals ($466 billion), motor vehicles ($465 billion), household utilities ($313 billion), gasoline and fuels ($304 billion) and education ($278 billion). It’s bested by the financial services and insurance industry, which has $921 billion in annual consumer spending, the $931 billion outpatient health-care industry and the $964 billion hospital-care industry.

With 7.6 million jobs, it provides more employment than computer technology, construction, finance and insurance, transportation and warehousing, food and beverage service, education and real estate rentals and leasing.

Outdoor recreation covers a wide range of activities, according to the report. Any sort of camping, fishing, hunting, motorcycling, snow sports, off-roading, train sports, water sports, wildlife viewing, bicycling and skateboarding and the ancillary needs that go with them were included as outdoor rec.

Of those, trail sports — hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, trail running, horseback riding, mountaineering — produces the most economic impact, with more than $201 billion spent on gear and trips. Camping is the second-highest spending generator at nearly $167 billion, followed by water sports at about $160 billion.

The report also broke down impact by region, which showed that the South Atlantic spends the most on outdoor rec with $179.1 billion and 1.6 million jobs created by the industry. The Pacific spends the next-highest at $149.6 billion and 1.2 million jobs. The Mountain region — including Colorado — spends the fourth-highest amount — just behind the East North Central region including Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio —  with $104.5 billion and 925,000 jobs.

The report is being used to justify spending on federal lands and protected waterways, showing that each year Americans spend $20 billion on trail sports gear versus $18 billion on home entertainment, for example.