Outdoor recreation contributed $13.64 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy, accounting for 152,000 jobs, and 1.6% of the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced Thursday.
The figures are per the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) statistics and represent an increase of 22% from 2020.
Supported by recreational assets, diversified economy, marketing, retail, and tourism, Pennsylvania has the sixth largest outdoor recreation economy in the country. Pennsylvania Director of Outdoor Recreation Nathan Reigner said in a statement that this recent round of economic data proves that the state’s outdoor recreation is the product of landscapes and partnerships.
“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,” said Reigner. “Unlike economic development through other industries, development through outdoor recreation also stimulates physical health, mental wellbeing, social cohesion, and environmental sustainability.”
Recreational vehicle (rv) camping comprises the greatest single contribution among core outdoor activities to the state’s outdoor economy. The rv contribution represented more than $700 million in value in 2021, a 17% increase over 2020. Boating and fishing ($555 million), hunting, shooting, and trapping ($354 million), ATV and motorcycle riding ($304 million), serve to create substantial economic contributions. Additional recreational activities spur economic productivity in supporting industries, including nearly $4 billion from travel and tourism activity and more than $1 billion from local recreational trips made by Pennsylvanians.
Outdoor recreation accounts for approximately 3% of jobs in America and $862 billion in economic output nationally. Jessica Turner, president of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR), said BEA data emphasizes the importance of investing in public lands, waters, and infrastructure for all types of recreation in Pennsylvania.
“From the creation of jobs and increased profit for small businesses in local economies to larger boons to the state’s economy, this sector is a consistent driver, even in times of economic uncertainty,” said Turner. “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.”
Recreation activities are diversifying, Reigner noted, with new users inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic and empowered by new recreation technologies from advanced gear to more readily available information. An increase in remote work has made possible recreation-based lifestyles that attract remote workers to become new residents in communities with recreational opportunities.
Pennsylvania’s Office of Outdoor Recreation, created by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, will seek to utilize collaboration with other government agencies, businesses, communities, economic developers, user groups, and recreation resource managers to grow the state’s outdoor economy.
“Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation economy is large, diverse, and not well connected to either state government or the economic development community,” said Reigner. “It is our job in the Office of Outdoor Recreation to be a partner for Pennsylvania’s outdoor economy, to understand its needs and help it prosper so it can deliver the benefits of good health, vibrant communities, conserved and connected natural resources, and entrepreneurship opportunities.”
Reigner said there is room for improvement in Pennsylvania ranking seventh in in the U.S. for total compensation for outdoor recreation work and 38th in rate of compensation growth.