Spending on outdoor recreation reaches $646 billion
By Robert Norris | (email@example.com)
The calendar has caught up with the weather — at last.
The first weekend of summer will be great for playing outdoors — lots of sun in the forecast — and Blount County offers recreation opportunities as enjoyable as anywhere in the country.
What is fun for some is serious business for many. Surprisingly many.
Did you know the outdoor recreation sector employs more Americans than finance and insurance combined? More than construction? More than transportation? More than education?
Did you have any idea that Americans spend more on bicycling gear and trips than on airplane tickets and fees? Compare at $81 billion to $51 billion, respectively.
Outdoor recreation accounts for:
• 6.1 million American jobs,
• $646 billion in outdoor recreation spending each year,
• $39.9 billion in federal tax revenue,
• $39.7 billion in state/local tax revenue.
That’s just a fraction of the data accumulated by the Outdoor Recreation Industry Association for its 2012 “Outdoor Recreation Economy” report. The study is a follow-up to the association’s first economic impact study released in 2006.
What the study found is not quite as hot has the weather, but it’s enough to warm the heart of the millions who have jobs that rely on outdoor recreation consumers.
During the period between 2005-2011 the outdoor recreation economy grew about 5 percent annually. In the era of the Great Recession, those numbers speak for themselves.
In Blount County, Joe Huff knows the value of outdoor recreation.
“It creates jobs,” the executive director of the Maryville-Alcoa-Blount County Parks and Recreation Commission said Thursday.
During the summer, Huff sees employment at Parks and Rec explode from a full-time staff of 20 to a payroll of 180 — with about 100 of those being high school and college-age employees.
Visits to Springbrook Pool average 600 on a hot summer day, and more than 200 more will swim and tan at John Sevier Pool.
“A lot of times our community underestimates — because of our proximity to the national park with so many recreation opportunities for everybody — the potential for outdoor recreation,” Huff said.
He noted when a large tract of undeveloped land becomes available for use in Blount County that industry or schools tend to be first up to the plate. Those economic benefits are obvious.
At the same time, the rewards of greenspace are clear to Blount Countians who appreciate the rolling countryside and access to mountains, trails, rivers and streams.
But Huff wonders if people take into account the outdoor economic opportunities.
“We have much more potential to generate more money from outdoor activities. Blount County is a place where so many would like to come and visit and stay for outdoor activities.”
For example, Huff said the Smoky Mountain Classic’s impact is around $800,000 for the annual softball tournament. He has long advocated for building facilities that would draw youth tournaments for baseball, softball and soccer.
There’s no doubt about the substantial economic impact of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
According to a recently released National Park Service study, the Park is not only the nation’s most visited national park, but it also tops the 397 national park units in visitor spending.
The “Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation and Payroll, 2010” study estimates that in 2010 the Park’s 9 million visitors spent over $818 million in the gateway communities surrounding the Park.
The number of jobs supported by the Smokies was pegged at 11,367.
The latest figures promise an even more prosperous future. Visits to the Park are up 13.5 percent from a year ago. The Smokies had 2.7 million visitors through May, about 330,000 more than for the same period in 2011.
State parks also provide a boost to Tennessee’s prosperity.
An Economic Impacts of Tennessee State Parks study prepared in 2010 estimated 16.9 million people visited Tennessee State Parks in 2008-2009. The result: $725.2 million in direct expenditures by state park visitors
Combine the direct and indirect expenditures, and the impact of Tennessee State Parks to the state’s economy was $1.5 billion with more than 18,600 jobs created.
Nationwide, much of the spending on outdoor recreation is for direct purchases of products, such as apparel, footwear, equipment, accessories, services such as guides, and recreational vehicles including boats and snowmobiles. The purchases of outdoor stuff like backpacks, fishing gear and hiking boots amount to $120.7 billion in annual sales.
For every dollar spent on gear and vehicles, $4 is spent on trips and travel-related buys, including food/drink, transportation, entertainment/activities, lodging and souvenirs/gifts/miscellaneous.
Venture beyond the direct economic impact and the Outdoor Recreation Industry Association’s data balloons.
The indirect impact, determined by using a multiplier, concludes that the total effect as outdoor recreation dollars ripple through the economy reaches $1.6 trillion.
In people terms, that’s 12 million jobs — a hot number in today’s economy, regardless of the weather.