Outdoor Recreation Plays Strong Role in Wyoming’s Economic Future
The Outdoor Recreation Industry continued to thrive in 2021 as a strong economic driver across the nation and in Wyoming accounting for $1.5 billion or 3.6% of the state’s GDP according to the latest report from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The total value added by outdoor recreation rose from $1.2 billion or 3.4% in 2020, representing a $3 million or .2% overall increase to the state’s GDP from 2020 to 2021. In 2021, Wyoming ranked 6th among all states in outdoor recreation value-added growth. Since 2020, outdoor recreation value added has grown 28.6% in Wyoming, compared with an increase of 24.7% for the United States.
Employment in the sector also saw an increase from 14,187 to 15,285 jobs accounting for 5.4% of the state’s total employment. Since 2020, outdoor recreation employment has grown 18.4% in Wyoming, compared with an increase of 13.1% for the United States.
“I think what we are seeing is the inherent value that the outdoor recreation economy has in a state like Wyoming,” said Patrick Harrington, Manager of the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Office. “People across the state are looking towards this industry as a means of economic diversification and vitality for our local and state economies.”
In 2020, Wyoming’s outdoors saw unprecedented visitation throughout the state and those high numbers have continued through 2021. Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks both celebrated record numbers and hosted a combined 8,745,787 recreation visits. Wyoming State Parks and Historic Sites also hosted a combined 5,755,184 visitors in 2021, a 2% decrease from 2020, but 25% above the five-year average.
With record visitation, many outdoor recreation activities also saw significant growth in 2021 with some surpassing pre-pandemic value added. Snow activities saw an increased value added of $108,258 jumping from the 13th to 12th ranked state in value added. RVing, motorcycling and ATVing, climbing, equestrian, bicycling and recreational flying also saw steady increases across the board contributing a combined $166,423 in value added or an 11% increase.
In response to trending visitation growth and demand for new outdoor recreation opportunities and infrastructure across the state, Wyoming Outdoor Recreation has continued its efforts to help promote, enhance and expand responsible outdoor recreation in Wyoming through a variety of projects, programs, and partnerships at a local, state and national level.
“The work we do to bring in millions of visitors around the world to experience Wyoming’s beauty and outdoor experiences would not be possible without our partnership with the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Office,” said Diane Shober, Executive Director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism. “Their team continues to provide exceptional cultural and recreational opportunities that retains visitors longer and overall brings them back for many years to come.”
In 2021, Wyoming Outdoor Recreation expanded its existing outdoor recreation collaboratives with the formation of 5 new initiatives for a total of 7 statewide. These initiatives bring together local community members, recreation stakeholders, businesses, conservation groups, federal and state agencies, and elected officials to identify and prioritize opportunities for the growth and enhancement of outdoor recreation in their region.
“It has been of the utmost importance in this collaborative process to incorporate and employ the perspectives and needs of local communities and its members to ensure these projects and enhancements will have positive, sustainable impacts and achieve their desired growth,” states Darin Westby, Director of Wyoming State Parks & Cultural Resources.
As participation in the outdoors continues to grow, strategic economic development will be crucial to improving the experience on public lands and taking the edge off overcrowding. New funding opportunities, investing in local recreation, and ensuring popular destinations have sufficient infrastructure will help reduce pressure and protect close-to-home recreation.
On July 1, 2022, Wyoming Outdoor Recreation announced the launch of the first Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Grant Program that will award funding to public outdoor recreation projects throughout the state. The program received nearly $72 million in requests for $14 million in available funding.
These projects and initiatives are part of a broader effort by Wyoming’s Office of Outdoor Recreation to diversify Wyoming’s economy and to have positive quality of life and economic impacts on local communities.
For more information about Wyoming Outdoor Recreation, please visit wyorec.com. You may also view the full BEA Report at https://www.bea.gov/data/