Over the past few years, interest in outdoor recreation has soared. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, people have visited parks and trails in record numbers, and their spending on related products increased as well. Many have wondered: as life returns to pre-pandemic routines, will the pattern hold?
New data suggest this trend isn’t slowing down any time soon. A report released last month by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that outdoor recreation continues to be a money-maker for Pennsylvania. According to the report, outdoor rec added nearly $14 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy in 2021, a 22% increase from 2020. This makes Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation economy the 6th largest in the country.
Outdoor recreation accounts for 1.6% of Pennsylvania’s total GDP, and PA ranks in the top ten states for GDP value added for almost all conventional outdoor recreation activities. These include RVing; hiking, climbing, and tent camping; cycling; hunting, shooting, and trapping; equestrian activities; snow activities; motorcycling and ATVing; and recreational flying. The only activity for which Pennsylvania did not rank in the top ten for value added was boating and fishing, thought that grouping was the second most profitable for the state in 2021.
“This latest round of economic data proves again that the excellence of Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation is the product of our remarkable landscapes and strong partnerships,” said Nathan Reigner, Pennsylvania’s newly minted Director of Outdoor Recreation. “Outdoor recreation continues to be a thriving and significant industry within the commonwealth and this data helps us better understand what we are doing well, while also providing guidance on where we can grow this industry for its own sake and to improve the lives of Pennsylvanians.”
In 2021, over 150,000 people were employed full time in outdoor recreation in Pennsylvania. Though this makes Pennsylvania the state with the 6th largest outdoor rec workforce in the country, it ranks 34th for employment growth. Similarly, in 2021, Pennsylvania ranked 7th among all states in compensation for outdoor recreation employees and 38th among all states in compensation growth, underscoring the need for continued investment in outdoor recreation.
Outdoor rec added nearly $14 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy in 2021, a 22% increase from 2020.
This is especially true since outdoor recreation is growing across the country, not just in Pennsylvania. According to the report, every state and Washington D.C. saw outdoor recreation employment grow in 2021. Investing in quality outdoor recreation experiences and attractive job and business opportunities will help the outdoor recreation economy continue to thrive in Pennsylvania.
This kind of investment is already happening throughout the Commonwealth. Last month, Allegheny County made its largest-ever investment in trails and active transportation. In September, Governor Wolf announced the creation of three new state parks, all within a half-hour of heavily populated areas. And major trail connections are moving forward in the Philadelphia area. With the ongoing growth in outdoor recreation, stakeholders have been convening to discuss further opportunities: DCNR created an outdoor recreation engagement coalition in September, and PEC held a summit last April to discuss the growing popularity of gravel riding in Pennsylvania.
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