A new report confirms Colorado's outdoor industry as a sustained force in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Skiing, hiking, biking, camping, fishing, hunting, off-roading and other forms of recreation spelled an economic output of $11.6 billion last year in the state, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That was up from $9.6 billion in 2020, when the pandemic altered tourism and travel.
The industry rebound represented 2.7% of the state's overall gross domestic product, the government agency reported. The study found outdoor recreation accounted for 125,244 jobs, or 4.3% of the state's total employment.
The study "exemplifies what we in Colorado know to be true: this industry is a huge economic driver and a significant source of jobs," Conor Hall, the state's Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry director, said in a statement. "The data clearly reflects the growth of this industry since 2020, and we must continue our work to support the industry, stewardship of our natural resources and equitable access to the outdoors."
The skiing and snow sector continues to be the state industry's biggest driver, adding nearly $1.27 million to the economy. That sector showed growth over 2019 and 2020, as did about every sector in the report.
The next biggest category was RVing, with the $474,678 in value added in 2020 representing a nearly 17% increase from 2020. Speaking to national trends in a news release, the RV Industry Association's president and CEO, Craig Kirby, credited "a record number of younger and more diverse customers" wanting to "fulfill their desire to get outdoors."
In the Colorado report, that desire is also suggested by growth in the categories of climbing/hiking/tent camping (up 27% year to year), horseback riding (up 12%), hunting/shooting (up 12%), cycling (up 11%) and motorcycling/ATVing (up 9%).
In the fifth year of the Bureau of Economic Analysis report, the nation's outdoor industry was found to pump about $862 billion into the economy and provide 4.5 million jobs in 2021. That output was up from $845 billion in 2019 and $689 billion in 2020.
In a news release, trade representative Outdoor Recreation Roundtable noted the industry was a bigger economic contributor than agriculture and oil and gas extraction.
“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," said that organization's president, Jessica Turner.