Monday, March 12, 2018

Outdoor recreation a huge cog in the nation's economic engine

Not only are outdoor activities that embrace fishing, hunting, Rving and other like pursuits important economic subjects for the United States, they also are expanding at rates that exceed the nation’s overall economic engine.

In a much-detailed report called the “Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account: Prototype Statistics for 2012-2016,” the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis says that the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2-percent ($373.7 billion) of current-dollar so-called “Gross Domestic Product” for 2016.

Looked at slightly differently, the Commerce Department reports how the outdoor recreation economy grew 3.8 percent in 2016 (the latest year for which complete data is available). That figure is also one full point greater than did the nation’s overall economic growth rate of 2.8 percent.

The rates likewise saw a huge jump in 2015 at nearly six-percent before settling back in 2016 to levels more closely in line with those seen in 2013 and 2014.

Refined further, the Commerce Department’s exhaustive report says that outdoor recreation activities fall into three general categories. These subsets include what’s officially known as “conventional core activities” and which embrace such activities as bicycling, boating, hiking, and hunting.

Another subset of core activities including “agritourism”(a loosely applied term that implies recreational visitation to farms and ranches), and outdoor festivals, and supporting activities that enfold construction, trips and travel, and government.

In 2016, conventional recreation accounted for 36.7 percent of total outdoor recreation gross output, other recreation accounted for 22.1 percent, while supporting activities accounted for the remaining 41.2 percent, the Commerce Department says.

More directly to individual components, the Commerce Department says that motorized vehicle use was “the largest activity within conventional outdoor recreation in 2016.”

This outdoors market share accounted for $59.4 billion of gross output with recreational vehicles “accounting for more than half of this value at $30 billion,” the Commerce Department’s report states.

Boating and sport fishing were not slackers, either, in helping fuel the nation’s economic engine. These activities were worth $38.2 billion in 2016, representing an increase of 4-percent from the previous year.

And the combined hunting/shooting/trapping activities were valued at $15.4 billion in 2016, with hunting accounting for over 60 percent of this value, the Commerce Department said in its February 14th report.

As for the Commerce Department’s “multi-use apparel and accessories” component which include backpacks, bug spray, and other general-purpose gear and accessories that could not be allocated to specific activities, this segment grew 7.2 percent in 2016 and accounted for 35 percent of conventional outdoor recreation gross output, the report says.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the data collected, analyzed and subsequently made available to the public and – especially business – can help the latter in hiring, investing and growth.

The historical lack of detailed federal data regarding outdoor recreational activities has handicapped both the private and public sectors, Ross said as well.

The public will no doubt be surprised at the economic importance of this industry as we release prototype statistics measuring the impact of activities like boating, fishing, RVing, hunting, camping, hiking, and more,” Ross said. “This release is a milestone and helps us all gain new insights into this dynamic part of the U.S. economy.”

True enough says the Washington D.C.-based Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a non-profit coalition of conservation and pro-sportsmen organizations.

It’s an extraordinary step forward to be able to quantify exactly how much America’s hunters, anglers, boaters, hikers, bikers, skiers, wildlife watchers, and other outdoor enthusiasts are contributing to a healthy economy and job market,” said Whit Fosburgh, the Partnership’s president and CEO.

Fosburgh said as well that the Commerce Department report does not even take into account recreational trips of less than 50 miles; about two-thirds of all outdoor recreation trips. Nor does the Commerce report take into account he sale of imported recreational goods, Fosburgh says.

Tally it all together and the nation’s outdoor recreation economy is worth $887 billion annually, Fosburgh also says.

When you consider that there are also many unquantifiable benefits of getting outside, including fostering healthy bodies and minds, you would think that growing this sector would be a top priority for our national decision makers,” Fosburgh said, noting the importance of the report in framing how the government addresses the topic of public lands, their use and any possible disposal.

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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