Report: Americans spend more on outdoor recreation than education, gas and utilities

An economic impact report released last month found Americans spend three times as much money on outdoor recreation versus education, gas and household utilities.

Consumer spending in the outdoor sector tops $887 billion, according to the Outdoor Recreation Economy Report published April 25 by the Outdoor Industry Association.

Comparatively speaking, Americans spent $466 billion on pharmaceuticals and $465 billion on motor vehicles last year, the report found. Spending on education, gas and household utilities in 2016 totaled $278 billion, $304 billion and $313 billion, respectively.

Only spending on insurance, outpatient healthcare and hospitalization bested outdoor recreation, with each category costing consumers more than $920 billion annually.

“This report makes clear that the outdoor recreation economy is not only thriving, but a powerful economic force that embodies the American spirit,” said Amy Roberts, OIA executive director, in a press release last month. “Public lands and waters are the foundation of this powerful economic force. By investing in and protecting America’s public lands and waters, we invest in our future and the continued well-being of America.”

The outdoor activities studied in the report included camping, wildlife viewing, fishing, hunting, motorcycling, off-roading, trail sports, wheel sports, water sports and snow sports.

Consumers in the South Atlantic region — Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida — spent $179.1 billion on outdoor recreation, more than any other region nationwide.

Shotgun, rifle and bow hunting, lumped together under the report’s “hunting” category, ranked as the third most popular activity, with consumers spending $27.3 billion and generating $1.8 billion in federal tax revenue.

Southwick Associates, the marketing research and economics firm responsible for compiling the report, said in a press release last week the industry’s success is measured in more than just numbers.

“The benefits of outdoor recreation far exceed mere numbers, though the numbers are impressive,” said Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates. “From helping people reduce stress, exercise more and overall improve their health, the tangible benefits of providing an abundant of outdoor activities go far beyond dollars and cents.”