Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account, Prototype Estimates, 2012-2016

Prototype statistics from the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA) released by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) show that the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2.0 percent ($373.7 billion) of current-dollar GDP in 2016 (table 1). In addition, the outdoor recreation economy grew 3.8 percent in 2016, compared to growth of 2.8 percent in the overall economy.

Current Release
  • Current Release: February 14, 2018
  • Next Release: September 20, 2018

Photograph of a hang gliderBEA has developed its first statistics showing how outdoor pursuits like snowboarding, biking and boating ripple through the U.S. economy.

These prototype statistics published Feb. 14, 2018, mark a milestone in BEA's work to measure the size and growth of the outdoor recreation economy. Feedback about these experimental data will help us finalize the definitions, data sources, methodology and presentation for the new Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account.

The resulting outdoor recreation report is planned for Sept. 20, 2018.

Outdoor recreation and the economic activities that support it – for example, a factory making fishing lures, a family traveling to hike in a national park, or a ski instructor giving lessons – are already woven invisibly into BEA's broad national statistics, such as GDP. The new account pulls these threads of data together in one place, with expanded detail, creating a picture of the outdoor recreation economy that would otherwise remain hidden within BEA's existing statistics.

The new data will add to public understanding and inform decision-making by policymakers, businesspeople and the managers of public lands and waters.

The outdoor recreation account, established by a 2016 federal law, joins other supplemental statistics that spotlight arts and cultural production, travel and tourism, and health care.

Upcoming Release

News Release and Data

Of Interest

Where We Are Now

For our prototype, BEA produced experimental statistics that allow you to view the outdoor recreation economy through two different lenses: first, a conventional definition of outdoor recreation including activities that typically require a degree of physical exertion and occur in a nature-based outdoor environment; and second, a broader definition including all recreational activities that occur in the outdoors. These experimental statistics were published on Feb. 14.

An enhanced set of statistics are scheduled to be released on Sept. 20. These new statistics incorporate feedback from BEA’s data users and other stakeholders, and will provide more detailed breakouts about specific activities and more data to analyze the outdoor recreation economy compared with statistics released on Feb. 14.


  • Finalize methodology and statistics
    • Sep 2018: Release the first official Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account statistics
    • Feb-Apr 2018: Gather feedback on prototype statistics and finalize the definition, data sources and methodology to be used for the national-level statistics
  • Prepare prototype estimates
    • Feb 2018: Release prototype statistics
    • Dec 2017-Jan 2018: Prepare prototype statistics based on the potential definitions being evaluated
    • Aug-Nov 2017: Identify data sources and methodologies to estimate goods and services that are partially-in-scope of outdoor recreation
  • Define outdoor recreation
    • Apr-Jul 2017: Reconciliation of independent reviews, incorporation of public comments, and consolidation into two to three potential definitions
    • Jan-Mar 2017: Independent development of a range of definitions, and review of goods and services by experts in field of outdoor recreation

Legislative Background

Federal Recreation Council Members

  • U.S. Forest Service
  • National Park Service
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

What is the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account?

Measures the economic activity as well as the sales or receipts generated by outdoor recreational activities, such as fishing and RVing. These statistics also measure each industry’s production of outdoor goods and services and its contribution to U.S. GDP. Industry breakdowns of outdoor employment and compensation are also included.

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