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2021 Outdoor Recreation Economy Breaks Record

• Outdoor Recreation Industry Generates $862 Billion, 4.5 Million Jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 9 — Today, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released economic data from the 2021 Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account, which detailed the outdoor recreation economy’s powerful and positive impact on the overall U.S. economy. These new record-breaking numbers found that outdoor recreation generated $862 billion in economic output and supported 4.5 million jobs. In 2021, the outdoor recreation economy contributed more to the U.S. economy than oil and gas extraction, mining and agriculture. The data also captured the continued surge in recreational boating many MRAA members experienced through the first half of 2022.

It was a record-breaking 2021 for outdoor recreation largely in part due to the continued surge kicked off by the COVID-19 pandemic, a time many turned to recreational fishing and boating to stave off cabin fever from lockdowns and gathering restrictions, and engaged in a fun, safe outdoor activity. This trend continued into 2022, and again recreational boating and fishing were “the largest conventional activity for the nation as a whole at $27.3 billion in current-dollar value added and was the largest conventional activity in 27 states and the District of Columbia. Florida ($4 billion), California ($2.3 billion), and Texas ($2 billion) were the largest contributors to U.S. value added for the activity.” Although boat sales in 2021 saw a slight decrease compared to the record sales experienced in 2020, the market remained strong with a total of 305,734 new units sold and an estimated 1.1 million pre-owned units sold.

Additionally, BEA data highlighted that MRAA members, retailers, are the backbone of the outdoor recreation economy as the retail trade industry group was the largest contributor to U.S. outdoor recreation, accounting for $119.9 billion in current-dollar value added. The second highest contributor in the retail trade group, generating $23.1 million in gross output, was “motor vehicle and parts dealers.”

Matt Gruhn of the MRAA
Matt Gruhn, MRAA President

“The BEA’s data not only demonstrates the importance of the recreational boating and fishing industry to the overall outdoor recreation economy but also highlights the role retailers play in making this all possible,” said Matt Gruhn, President of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. “Even throughout a year filled with lingering challenges caused by the pandemic and economic uncertainty, the outdoor recreation economy, and MRAA members in particular, rolled with supply chain disruptions, production delays, and more to get folks on the water or out in nature. I commend everyone in the outdoor recreation economy, and especially the retailers on the frontlines, for being part of this industry and being dedicated to improving the lives of others through sharing what we love.”

As a whole, the 2020 data highlights how the outdoor industry, despite the impact of widespread public lands and business closures, suspended trips, and travel, gathering restrictions, supply chain issues and more, continued to support communities across the country during the pandemic. Prior to 2020, the outdoor recreation economy was growing faster than the economy in every indicator and served as a resilient economic growth engine and job creator.  

Key 2021 data highlights on the outdoor recreation economy:

  • $862 billion in economic output
  • 1.9 percent of GDP
  • 4.5 million jobs
  • Trips and travel coming back, record sales in many outdoor segments, manufacturing increasing, as well as the drive to continue to recreate for quality of life allowed our industry to bounce back from the effects of COVID in 2020.
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“The BEA data underscores how important it is to invest in public lands, waters and recreation infrastructure from coast to coast and for recreation activities of all types,” said Jessica Turner, president of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR). “From the creation of jobs and increased profit for small businesses in local economies, to larger boons to our national economy, this sector is a consistent driver, even in times of economic uncertainty. The strength of the outdoor recreation economy reflects what many in the industry have long known to be true: there are infinite benefits that come from more people spending time outdoors, and they’ll only grow with continued investment.”

“We have seen record growth in camping and boating over the past couple years, with millions of people enjoying RVs and boats to connect with family and friends, to relax and recharge, and to experience nature,” said Michael Happe, President and CEO of Winnebago Industries. “The record economic impact in the BEA numbers demonstrates the collective power of our industry to help people discover and experience the tremendous benefits of the outdoor lifestyle. We continue to welcome an increasingly diverse group of new participants, so we look forward to maintaining this momentum by developing recreation infrastructure and increasing access for all.”

“The latest BEA numbers are a testament to the power of outdoor recreation, and we are thrilled to see our industry’s economic impact grow,” said Chris Metz, CEO of Vista Outdoor Inc., the parent company of 41 outdoor and sporting product brands. “This data shows that people continued to venture into the outdoors for health, wellness and adventure in record numbers last year as businesses across the industry worked to expand participation and bring more people into the outdoors. The goal now: Build on that momentum. We will stay focused on increasing access to public lands, building more recreation infrastructure and growing participation across all outdoor activities.”

“This data solidifies what we have seen over our 63-year history – that there is intrinsic value in the outdoors,” said Toby O’Rourke, President and CEO of Kampgrounds of America, Inc. “Over 20 million new households started camping since 2020 with six in ten planning to continue. We are increasingly seeing camping and the outdoors vacation becoming a preferred form of travel. The economic impact of camping and the greater outdoor industry underscores how critical natural spaces are to our communities.  And, even more importantly, the outdoors remains vital for overall health and well-being and in fostering connection to others.”

“The continued strength of the outdoor economy is no surprise to the marine industry, where we continue to see incredible growth with new and younger customers taking to our brands each year,” said Chris Drees, President of Mercury Marine. “We will continue to work closely with our partners in the outdoor recreational community to promote the benefits of being on the water.”

“Last year proved to be a year like no other for the outdoor recreation industry, and today’s Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account data release underscores the fact that boating and time spent on our nation’s waterways is a favorite American pastime,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and Board Chair of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR). “Since 2020, the recreational boating and fishing industry and outdoor recreation economy at large has led a national recovery, welcoming millions of families to experience the considerable health benefits of the great outdoors while being a vital economic contributor and job creator.”To see what the recreation community is saying, click here.

America’s outdoor recreation community, represented by ORR, continues to support the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA) – the project compiling and releasing this data. Just like is the case for many other industries, the goal is to provide annual data on the economic importance of national and regional outdoor recreation economies that can be tracked for years to come. To learn more about ORR and outdoor recreation’s contributions to the economy, click here.


The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable  is the nation’s leading coalition of outdoor recreation trade associations representing the $862 billion outdoor recreation economy. ORR focuses on the growth of outdoor recreation by building a better environment for the sustainable growth of outdoor recreation businesses and driving a broader understanding of the value of the outdoor recreation economy. Our membership includes national outdoor trade association members, business entities, nonprofit organizations, and universities — serving more than 110,000 businesses and representing America’s, boating, fishing, RVing, biking, hiking, camping, hunting, motorized, diving, horseback and skiing communities among many more.

About the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas

At the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, we believe that for the marine industry to thrive, the retail organizations that interact with the boaters in their community must thrive. With that in mind, MRAA works to create a strong and healthy boating industry by uniting those retailers, providing them with opportunities for improvement and growth, and representing them with a powerful voice. For more information, visit or contact us at 763-315-8043.