A single fishing boat in the distance with a man standing and looking out at the water surrounded by dark gray trees and hills at dawn,

Wisconsin’s $8.7 Billion Outdoor Recreation Industry Sees Record Year

This growth of the outdoor recreation industry shows the importance of being outside and the impact to our economy.

In 2021, Wisconsin’s outdoor recreation industry contributed $8.7 billion to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP), setting a record in state history. The outdoor economy grew at a rate of 14 percent in 2021, which was three times faster than the state’s overall economic growth. 

National data shows the outdoor recreation economy accounted for about 2 percent of total GDP and grew about 19 percent (compared to 6 percent overall). The state’s outdoor recreation industry supported nearly 90,000 jobs in 2021, growing almost 10 percent in comparison to about 2.5 percent for all jobs.

“From hunting and fishing to boating and paddling to snowboarding and skiing, outdoor recreation is part of who we are as a people and a state—it improves our quality of life, draws visitors from all over the world, supports tens of thousands, and serves as a major economic driver for communities across Wisconsin,” said Gov. Tony Evers in a press release.

To support outdoor recreation in the state, Gov. Evers created the Office of Outdoor Recreation in 2019 to ensure Wisconsin continues to be seen as a top outdoor recreation destination. 

Travel and tourism contribute nearly $2.8 billion to Wisconsin’s GDP, and Wisconsin has continued to experience an increase in economic impact from tourism related to outdoor recreation over the past two years.

“We’ve long understood this inextricable link between outdoor recreation and tourism. Our traveler surveys consistently show outdoor recreation is a top marketable reason people visit Wisconsin,” said Secretary-designee Anne Sayers of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. 

The top outdoor recreation contributions to Wisconsin’s GDP included apparel and accessories, motorcycling and ATVing, boating and fishing, and bicycling. Nationally, the top three categories were boating and fishing, RV traveling, and hunting, shooting, and trapping.

Find the national report and state-level data and tables on the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account section of the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis website at: https://www.bea.gov/data/special-topics/outdoor-recreation

Featured image by Josh Haroldson, 2011.

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