By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Even though total income dropped, outdoor recreation still contributed 3.4% to Wyoming’s gross domestic product as park visitation numbers increased and more people took part in some outdoor activities, according to the latest numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
According to the bureau, the total value added by outdoor recreation to the state’s gross domestic product dropped from $1.69 billion in 2019 to $1.25 billion in 2020, with the total contribution dropping from 4.2% to 3.4% of the total.
Employment in the sector saw a decrease from 21,344 to 14,187 but the percentage of total wages declined only 0.1%.
“Many outdoor activities saw significant growth, including snowmobiling and (off-road vehicle) riding, which saw an increase in permit sales of over 18% and 16% respectively from 2019 to 2020.” said Chris Floyd, Manager of the Wyoming Office of Outdoor Recreation. “Although the overall outdoor recreation economic impact numbers declined, most of the losses in the sector were due to limits on a few activities, such as snow skiing and outdoor events, which experienced heavy impacts due to closures and other restrictions during the pandemic.”
There were also increases in the economic impact of boating and fishing by 79%, bicycling by 13%, climbing/hiking/tent camping by 6%, motorcycling and ATV riding by 5% and RV camping by 2.5%.
Wyoming state park visitation in 2020 increased by 41% over 2019 and other managers of other public lands reported similar increases in use. The growth helped increase economic activity statewide as other economic sectors saw declines during the pandemic, according to the Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources.
Wyoming was ranked fourth nationally in value added in both percentage of GDP and percentage of total wages in 2020, trailing only Hawaii, Vermont and Montana.
Many Wyoming businesses reported strong sales of outdoor recreation equipment and vehicles, which would have been even higher had supply chains been able to keep up with the demand, officials said.
The economic impact from snow activities, particularly at ski resorts, saw a decline of 37% or $40 million, which wiped out many gains in other recreational activities. Equestrian activities and hunting and shooting sports also declined by 28% and 21% respectively.
“Our gross sales were up over 40% in 2020 compared to 2019 and it is continuing through (2021) where we have surpassed 2020 gross sales year to date,” said Mark Black, owner of Cycle City Wyoming, a powersports business in Evanston. “Our issue now is the supply chain, where the manufacturers are limiting not only quantities but models as well, and sometimes shipping incomplete units that are waiting on chips for instrument clusters. The demand has been pretty consistent and I don’t see it dramatically decreasing for the near future.”
Wyoming State Parks expects next year’s BEA report to show that outdoor recreation activities played a strong role in the state’s economic rebound, particularly since most closures and travel restrictions were eased or lifted.