Blog Post

Insight: New BEA Data Uncover a Burgeoning Industry: Outdoor Recreation

By: Jennifer Leaver

Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect an institutional position of the Gardner Institute. We hope the opinions shared contribute to the marketplace of ideas and help people as they formulate their own INFORMED DECISIONS™.

I have long suspected—either while desperately searching for a parking spot in Big Cottonwood Canyon, waiting in long lines at REI, or watching another outdoor gear manufacturer set roots in Utah—that Utah’s outdoor recreation industry is growing. Well, now there’s proof!

In September 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) produced its first-ever assessment and analysis of the nation’s outdoor recreation industry—an industry that made up 2.2% of GDP in 2017. The 2018 Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA) report looked at the relative size and impact of this burgeoning industry on a national level. A year later, the BEA took it a step further and released outdoor recreation industry data by state. The BEA’s “prototype statistics” (meaning they can be refined later) measure outdoor recreation industry value added, employment, and compensation in each state from 2012 to 2017.

So, what do the ORSA data tell us about Utah’s outdoor recreation industry?

First, Utah ranks in the top 10 states for outdoor recreation value added, employment, and compensation as percent of total. In other words, the outdoor recreation industr