2020 was … well, it was a lot. It was also the year many of us went outside and did socially aloof activities like biking, fishing, boating, and camping.
According to the Outdoor Industry Association, 7 million more people participated in at least one outdoor activity in the past year than in the previous year.
Nevertheless, the gross domestic product for the outdoor leisure industry fell by 19%, according to new data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
If you were one of the millions of people who tried to buy a bike, kayak, or go to a national park last year, it might be surprising to hear that the outdoor recreation industry had a difficult year, according to Jessica Turner of The Outdoors Round table for relaxation.
“RV, you know – you couldn’t find one. Boat – still can’t find one. Bicycles – sold out. You know, camping – crowded. So when you see and hear these things, say, “What’s going on here?” She said.
The outdoor industry includes all types of companies hit hard by the pandemic, said Axie Navas, director of the Outdoor Recreation Division in New Mexico.
“We’ve faced closings of public lands, supply chain disruptions, travel restrictions, huge impact on transportation and warehousing, so that’s part of the story,” she said.
The other, more positive part of the story, she said, is that so many more people started going outside.
When David Leinweber was allowed to reopen his fly fishing shop Angler’s Covey in Colorado Springs, “we had an incredible amount of business on us”. People wanted to buy equipment and go on guided tours. “Fly fishing is the ultimate in social distancing, isn’t it?”
Cycling is also possible. Dale Davis also saw sales increase at his 505 Cycles bike store in Farmington, New Mexico last spring. “I really believed then that what we were going to see would be like a New Year’s Eve breakup effect,” he said – people who buy bikes and never actually use them. Instead of this?
“You see all these people come back to the store and buy more gear or upgrade their bikes and say, ‘Man, I fell in love with this so much,'” said Davis.
It’s been a good year, he said. And if there weren’t any supply chain issues, it would have been even better.