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    Feds Measure Economic Impact of Outdoor Recreation including Equestrian Activities

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    March 18, 2018
    By Kim McCarrel, OET VP Public Lands
    Equestrians have always sensed that we have a significant economic impact, but we couldn’t prove it. Now, for the first time ever, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) is measuring the economic impact of equestrian activities as part of its analysis of outdoor recreation.

    The BEA has just released the preliminary findings from its comprehensive analysis of the outdoor economy. It found that outdoor recreation accounted for $373.7 billion in 2016, growing by 3.8% compared to the 2.8% growth in the overall economy. This means that outdoor recreation accounted for more than 2% of the total economy in 2016—on par with the total economic impact of all restaurants and bars nationwide.  The biggest economic driver in the recreation sector, not surprisingly, is motorized vehicles, at $59.4 billion in 2016. RV’s accounted for more than half of this value, and motorcycles were $11.3 billion. The boating and fishing category came next, with an economic impact of $38.2 billion.

    In 2016, equestrian activities accounted for $12.7 billion. This compares with just $3.3 billion for bicycling, $9.3 billion for hunting, and $7.9 billion for camping/climbing/hiking.  Before we get too excited by these numbers, it’s important to note that outdoor equestrian activities besides trail riding are included in the statistic above. Nonetheless, this is the first time that the government has measured the economic impact of equestrian activities, and it’s nice to see how we compare with other parts of the outdoor industry.

    Outdoor recreation has always been included in the U.S. GDP measures, of course, but the numbers didn’t allow you to identify the impact of outdoor recreation by itself. For example, in the conventional GDP numbers, RV sales were included in total motor vehicle sales, and RV manufacturing was included in other transportation equipment. The new BEA study slices and dices the general GDP figures so the impact of outdoor recreation can be identified on a stand-alone basis. Unfortunately, BEA’s preliminary numbers don’t identify what activities besides trail riding are included in the equestrian figures. When the finalized numbers are released in September, hopefully we’ll be able to get a more complete picture of what is included in the $12.7 billion equestrian activities statistic.

    In the meantime, it’s nice to know that, at last, someone is quantifying the impact of equestrian activity on the economy. And it’s interesting to see how we stack up relative to other types of outdoor recreation.

    You can find more information about the BEA economic analysis at https://www.bea.gov/outdoor-recreation/.