The Outdoor Industry’s GDP Contribution Even Bigger Than Initial Estimate

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The Capitol Building and Reflecting Pool in Washington D.C. America, illuminated at night. Photo: davidevison/iStock

On Tuesday, the Outdoor Industry Association made a bold announcement: according to research done by the trade association, outdoor recreation now contributes $887 billion in direct consumer spending to the U.S. economy every year—$200 billion more than the industry’s initial estimate. The new report bumps up several other numbers, too, estimating that outdoor rec generates 7.6 million jobs (up from 6.1 million) and $120.2 billion in tax revenue (up from $79.6 billion).

The findings were an update to OIA’s 2012 Outdoor Recreation Economy report, which estimated the industry’s GDP contribution at an oft-quoted $646 billion—a number determined primarily by surveys commissioned by OIA. Most organizations have taken that number at face value, but it’s always been unclear how much of the $646 billion is guesswork. That’s what made last December’s passage of the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act so monumental. The REC Act authorized the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis—federal economists whose job it is to evaluate the economic contributions of other industries—to officially assess the contribution of outdoor recreation to the nation’s GDP. When those findings come out by the end of 2018, they will set the benchmark by which the outdoor industry’s contribution is judged.

So the question is: How much stock should we put into the OIA’s new report with its $887 billion? Remember that it’s…

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