Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account: Updated Statistics for 2012-2016

Updated statistics from the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA) released today by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) show that the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2.2 percent ($412 billion) of current-dollar GDP in 2016. In data produced for the first time, using inflation-adjusted (real) GDP, the outdoor recreation economy grew 1.7 percent in 2016, faster than the 1.6 percent growth for the overall U.S. economy. In addition, real gross output, compensation, and employment all grew faster in outdoor recreation than in the overall economy in 2016.

  • Current Release: September 20, 2018
  • Next Release: Fall 2019

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.

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 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.

News Release and Data

Of Interest


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 were released on Sept. 20. These new statistics incorporate feedback from BEA’s data users and other stakeholders and 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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