Outdoor Recreation Industry Sees Record-Breaking Year, Generating $862 Billion In Economic Impact

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released economic data yesterday for 2021, exhibiting outdoor recreation’s powerful and positive economic impact on the U.S. economy. These new numbers show outdoor recreation generates $862 billion in economic output, with recreational boating and fishing the number one contributor to the outdoor recreation economy and the largest recreational activity in 27 states and the District of Columbia.

The outdoor recreation economy came back stronger than ever after the COVID-19 pandemic and remains a steady source of strength nationally and a booming job creator locally, employing 4.5 million Americans and accounting for 1.9 percent of U.S. GDP.

“Last year proved to be a year like no other for the outdoor recreation industry, including boating and fishing which once again carries the near trillion-dollar outdoor recreation economy. This data underscores the fact that boating and time spent on our nation’s waterways is a favorite American pastime being passed down among generations,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and current 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.”

Key highlights from the 2021 data on the outdoor recreation economy:

  • $862 billion in economic output
  • $27.3 billion in current-dollar value attributed to boating and fishing
  • 1.9% 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-19 in 2020.


“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.”

This is the fifth consecutive year that BEA has released government data on this critical industry sector. The release includes national and state level data. More information on the data release may be viewed here.

To see what the recreation community is saying, click here.

For questions or additional information, please contact Emma Boone, Director of Public Affairs and Communications, at eboone@nmma.org