Outdoor Rec Industry in Wisconsin Sets Record

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In Wisconsin, the outdoor recreation industry had a record-setting 2021, with officials reporting that the industry contributed $8.7 billion to the state’s gross domestic product last year. 

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday announced the record numbers, which come from annual data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Wisconsin’s outdoor economy also grew by 14.1 percent — more than three times faster than the state’s overall economy, which grew by 4.6 percent, according to a release from Evers' office

Fishing, outdoor apparel, motorcycling/ATVing, boating and bicycling were some of the leading categories by fiscal contribution to the Wisconsin GDP.

"From hunting and fishing to boating and paddling to snowboarding and skiing, outdoor recreation is part of who we are as a people and a state — it improves our quality of life, draws visitors from all over the world, supports tens of thousands, and serves as a major economic driver for communities across Wisconsin,” Evers said in the release. “I’m proud of our work to create the Office of Outdoor Recreation and to ensure this critical industry recovers from the pandemic, and these numbers are an excellent testament to this important work and the Office’s success.”

The success story was shared jointly between Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, Wisconsin Department of Tourism secretary-designee Anne Sayers and Wisconsin Office of Outdoor Recreation director Mary Monroe Brown. The sum was deducted from data collected yearly by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Of the $8.7 billion sum, $2.8 billion came directly from travel and tourism — whether it be residents visiting another part of Wisconsin or people coming from out-of-town.

Nearly 90,000 jobs were supported by the outdoor recreation industry, capitalizing on the vast sporting opportunities presented by the landscape of Wisconsin, as reported by WTMJ

The growth rate of jobs in the outdoor recreation sector increased by 7.3 percent more than the state average for all sectors.

In Wisconsin, fishing was one of the categories that grew in 2020, and again in 2021.

According to the new data, the top categories within outdoor recreation’s contributions to Wisconsin’s GDP were: 

  • Multi-use apparel and accessories: $961 million
  • Motorcycling and ATVing: $882 million, number one nationally 
  • Boating and Fishing: $602 million 
  • Bicycling: $451 million, number two nationally 

Nationally, the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 1.9 percent and $454 billion of GDP and grew 18.9 percent compared to 5.9 percent for the overall U.S. economy. 

Evers created the Dept. of Tourism in 2019 to establish Wisconsin as a prime destination for outdoor recreationists across the country and beyond.

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