On the heels of the OIA’s 2017 report putting the outdoor industry at $887 billion, the U.S. government just released a study from the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis clocking the outdoor recreation industry in at $373.7 billion in 2016.

outdoor industry worth $373 billion

The Outdoor Industry is valued at $373 billion, according to a new US Department of Commerce report. But how can you put a price tag on this? Photo: David Marcu/Unsplash

Some might be scratching their head at the discrepancy. The explanation is that the recent report from the BEA measured gross domestic product revenue alone — and did not account for manufacturing overseas of apparel and accessories — although it did account for the sales of such products at retail.

The BEA also only measured revenue generated through trips that were 50 miles or more from consumers’ home bases – which could be a major factor as to why the numbers were drastically different, according to OIA’s Amy Roberts. "We know that two-thirds of all outdoor recreation happens within those 50 miles," Roberts told Outside Magazine.

Beyond the surface of the report, what we found particularly interesting were the following high revenue generators, and how much growth they have seen between 2012 and 2016:

Motorized Vehicles was responsible for $60 billion in gross output for 2016. But within that figure, “recreational vehicles” accounted for half of that value at $30 billion. “Other motorized vehicles” were also up there at $18 billion — a $1 billion uptick from 2015. Although the BEA didn’t actually define what “other” refers to here, we could speculate the movement of converting more traditional vehicles into tiny homes on wheels could be a factor in this rising figure.

The increase in #vanlife culture, lifestyle and general interest from a generation that values “experiences over things” definitely backs up the rise in revenue behind those who are actively seeking out the tools needed to build out their own adventuremobiles.

Trips and travel are on the rise. Trending upward since 2012, revenue generated by outdoor-related travel has climbed from $224 billion to $230 billion in 2016.

• The gross output for Camping, Hiking and Climbing, which were lumped together into one category in the BEA’s report, has seen a solid, gradual increase since 2012, from $6.5 billion to $7.9 billion in 2016. With younger, “adventure driven” generations gaining spending power, the correlation to more robust revenue in this space does not surprise us.

outdoor industry worth $373 billion

Escaping city life and reconnecting with nature has never been more important in today’s ultra tech-connected society. Photo: Wilson Ye/Unpslash

Accessories are on the come-up. This category, although also lumped in with apparel, has skyrocketed since 2012, when it generated about $71 billion, to $86 billion in 2016. The report accounted for the following items when talking about accessories and apparel: general outdoor clothing, backpacks, coolers, hydration equipment, lighting, sports racks, sunscreen, and watches.

Festivals, Events and Concerts are still growing. While some of us might be tapping out of Coachella and Burning Man from here on out, the general US population is still looking for events to connect with camping and the outdoors. Platforms like Wanderlust, that put an emphasis on wellness and spending time outdoors, are expanding and becoming a more well-recognized cultural phenomenon. This segment went from generating $22 billion in 2012 to $26 billion in 2016.

• Where do adventure sports fit into the mix? While skiing and snowboarding make up a pretty respectable chunk of overall outdoor recreation gross revenue, at $3.3 and $2.9 billion respectively, disciplines like skateboarding, surfing, and standup paddling have been grouped together with activities like running in a collective “other outdoor recreation” category, which accounted for $17.8 billion.

Canoe and kayaking generated $600 million in 2016, while biking brought in $3.3 billion.

In general, the BEA’s report serves as a solid resource, and signifies an increasing national focus on the outdoor recreation industry, and how we can collectively grow and bolster it in the future.

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