Data show outdoor recreation means dollars for state’s economy

January 8, 2015

New study shows $21.6 billion in spending

OLYMPIA — Outdoor recreation generates $21.6 billion a year in spending on trips and equipment in Washington State, a new study prepared for the Legislature shows.

And Washingtonians love to play outside, spending an average of 56 days a year in some form of outdoor recreation.

The study, prepared for the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office by Earth Economics, at the direction of the Legislature led by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, is the first comprehensive analysis of the recreation economy in Washington. It offers economic impact data both by geography, by county and by activity.

“It’s no secret that we live in the most beautiful state in the union and that Washington’s natural splendor is an enormous economic generator,” said Sen. Ranker. “Until now, however, we didn’t fully understand just how powerful an economic force outdoor recreation is. We must not only continue to invest in the protection of our great outdoors, we must support and invest the hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend up it.”

“This new data confirms what many of us already know from living in Washington: the outdoors attracts top employers, keeps our families healthy, and generates billions in revenue that helps fund statewide priorities like education,” said Joanna Grist, Executive Director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. “It is imperative we continue to invest in our natural heritage so we can reap the benefits from our special places for decades to come.”

Highlights include:

  • $21.6 billion is spent every year on outdoor recreation trips and equipment on both public and private land in Washington.
  • Nearly 200,000 jobs are supported by outdoor recreation, comparable to the aerospace and tech industries in Washington.
  • $10.4 billion is spent on sightseeing and nature activities including $7 billion on wildlife watching and photography.
  • $8 billion is spent on activities around water, including fishing, boating, swimming and diving.
  • Out-of-state visitors play an important role—accounting for 12 percent of recreation days, but 27 percent of dollars spent on outdoor recreation. Every dollar spent by an out-of-state traveler in Washington generates $1.36 in economic impacts, resulting in a total of $4.6 billion in new money circulating in the state’s economy.
  • The recreation market is one of the largest markets in the state for moving income from urban to rural areas and building jobs in more rural areas.


A copy of the report can be found here.

A summary can be found here.