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  • Writer's pictureLee Hart

Alaska Among Top States in US Outdoor Recreation Economy

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

For the sixth consecutive year that the US Bureau of Economic Analysis has released national and state level data, Alaska’s outdoor recreation economic sector continues to show its strength as a contributor to the overall state and national economy.

The federal data tells the story of how the outdoor industry continues to grow and thrive, supporting jobs and local economies in communities across the state, providing tangible benefits to residents in a state synonymous with outdoor adventuring.

From 2021 - 2022, outdoor recreation's contribution to the state economy increased nearly 30 percent from $2.1 to $2.6 billion, the second largest increase among all states. Alaska is also among the top five recreation states in the country in terms of outdoor recreation’s percentage of overall state GDP.

“The BEA numbers bear witness that beyond the documented benefits to physical and mental well-being, Alaska’s outdoor recreation economy is a force for job creation and a lucrative economic development strategy,” said Lee Hart, Executive Director of the Alaska Outdoor Alliance. “It makes a compelling case that investment in outdoor recreation infrastructure, support for Alaska-inspired product innovators and guides, outfitters and other tourism businesses that help visitors experience some of Alaska’s wildest corners, pays dividends for state and local economies as well as quality of life.”

“With vast spaces outside our front doors, Alaskans well know the attraction and benefits of recreating outside,” said Jillian Simpson, President & CEO of the Alaska Travel Industry Association. “The new BEA data quantifies that benefit economically and reaffirms what we know anecdotally: outdoor recreation and recreation tourism are a significant pillar for our state.”

"Outdoor recreation is a means to better understand and appreciate the native natural history that surrounds all who live in Alaska. The economic impact it brings is a benefit, but the ability to educate the importance of respecting the land at the same time will provide sustainability for enjoyment for generations to come," said Camille Ferguson, Economic Development Director, Sitka Tribe of Alaska.

“We've focused our economic development growth vision on Prince William Sound's blue economy, and outdoor recreation is a huge part of what this region has to offer. The outdoor recreation economy supports good jobs, helps residents and visitors enjoy the Sound's blue waters in a sustainable way, and showcases the beautiful coastline scenery, wildlife and fish resources that make this inland sea so rich,” said Kristin Carpenter, Executive Director, Prince William Sound Economic Development District. “With our community, agency and tribal partners, we're working on increasing public and private support for much-needed public use cabins and recreation facilities to ensure stewardship of these spectacular places.”

“The performance of our three stores from 2020 to current is indicative of the BEA data recently released on outdoor recreation’s economic impact. In 2022, we saw record sales across all lines and all segments of outdoor powersports, marine and recreational gold mining equipment,” said Nick Olzenak, Chief Operating Officer, Alaska Mining and Diving Supply. “In 2023 we predicted a flattening of the curve but the results year to date have us surpassing even 2022 as our record, giving this year the win. Larger economic drivers will likely take hold in 2024 to slow the growth or possibly even back slide some in many areas. With that said, outdoor recreation, especially in powersports received a tremendous boost of new users in the past three years, ultimately allowing dealers to expand their customer base and allow us to engage a larger footprint of potential buyers in the near future.”

“This is exciting news for Alaska’s economy! BEA data shows that the growth in "other snow sports" including snowmachines and related gear sales were up 15.4% in 2021 and now up an additional 48.4% for 2022,” said Michele Stevens, founder of the Alaska Snowmachine Alliance. “Dealers having record sales is good news for Alaskan families looking to stay healthy and for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy Alaska’s wilderness trails and all that Alaska has to offer. Alaska’s winter recreation inspires businesses to stay open and is what keeps our state’s economy healthy and moving forward in the winter!”

“Alaska Trails is excited to see that the BEA data on the outdoor recreation economy reinforces what we have been seeing on the ground. Communities across Alaska are reaping the benefits of increased investment in outdoor infrastructure, especially trails,” said Steve Cleary, Executive Director of Alaska Trails. “In 2022, outdoors pursuits like hiking, camping and climbing saw a 27.5% growth in revenue in Alaska. We know that trails are an important draw for visitors, which leads to a thriving outdoor recreation economy in Alaska.”

Visits to Alaska’s many conservation lands and waters are big contributors to the sector’s performance. According to the 2022 National Park Service Visitor Spending Effects Report, visitors to national parks spent $1.2 billion in the parks and gateway communities in Alaska. The expenditures supported a total of 16,500 jobs; $646 million in labor income, $1 billion in value added and $1.8 billion in economic output. Compared to other states, Alaska’s national parks rank sixth in overall visitor spending and seventh in economic output.

“Our incredible national parks provide visitors with incredible intrinsic values and in turn produce record-setting economic benefits. In support of these values, we call on state and federal elected leaders to boost investments in these incredible places and in turn, the sustainable, made-in-America jobs they support." said Jim Adams, Alaska Regional Director,

National Parks Conservation Association

“The Tongass and Chugach National Forests are amazing places for people to explore a large variety of outdoor activities, which are crucial economic drivers to the Alaskan economy.” said Patrick Shannon, Pacific Northwest and Alaska Director - National Forest Foundation.

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