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Vermont Celebrates a Banner Year for Outdoor Recreation in 2022

December 20, 2023

December 20, 2023

Vermont Celebrates a Banner Year for Outdoor Recreation in 2022

Montpelier, Vt. – New data released by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) shows that in 2022, outdoor recreation made up 4.6% of Vermont’s economy ranking the state 2nd behind Hawaii in contributions to state gross domestic product (GDP). Vermont ranked 3rd in 2021. According to the BEA, the outdoor economy surpassed $1 trillion nationally, growing 2.5 times faster than the national economy.

Vermont’s highly diversified outdoor recreation sector bolstered local economies across the state accounting for close to $400 million in retail sales in 2022, up from $310 million in 2021, and manufacturing was reported at $106 million. Additionally, accommodations and food services significantly increased to $666 million from $383 million.

This economic activity was generated from a range of outdoor activities including snow sports, recreational vehicles, boating, camping, hiking, bicycling, and hunting. In 2022, snow activities were Vermont’s top grossing industry growing 32% from 2021, bringing in $244 million. Contributions related to the purchase of recreation vehicles increased 9% reflecting investments in these vehicles for camping and recreational travel.

“These numbers align with what Vermont retailers continue to experience with residents and tourists visiting our recently-opened ski resorts and shopping for last minute holiday gifts,” said Randy Elles, Brand Manager from First Stop Board Barn in Killington. “Additionally, while we’ve seen progress in hiring workers during the busier winter and summer seasons, there remains a skilled labor gap for ski techs and bike mechanics.”

Increased outdoor economic activity expanded the workforce to 15,000 workers in 2022 at a rate of 12.4% and the highest percentage growth nationwide.  

An important driver of Vermont’s outdoor industry comes from tourism, both from local Vermonters who travel outside of their region and from the more than 60 million people who live within a five-hour drive of Vermont. 

“Vermont is a global tourism destination, that offers world-class outdoor recreation experiences,” said Heather Pelham, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing and newly appointed Vice Chair of the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC) Steering Committee. “When people come to Vermont to recreate, they do so much more than that. They contribute to the local economy with every activity, supporting Vermont businesses from retail and dining to attending events, and help to keep our downtowns vibrant places to live, work, and play. In some cases, the experiences visitors have when they come here can go a long way towards choosing to make Vermont their permanent home.” 

The flooding this week and last summer underscore the importance of investing in climate-ready outdoor recreation businesses and recreation infrastructure. Vermont is looking towards the future by expanding partnerships, programs, and projects to steward and sustain Vermont’s outdoor recreation and its economic benefits.

The Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance (VOBA) is the state’s network of outdoor businesses working to develop Vermont’s outdoor industry and career pathways. “The strength of the sector lies in the many collaborations with partners to shore up natural areas, recreational resources, accessibility, well-paying employment, and innovative products and services for a climate resilient future.” said Kelly Ault, Executive Director of the Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance (VOBA). “The winter season and holidays give us a chance to showcase the truly remarkable outdoor resources our state has to offer.”

The Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC) is the state’s network of public sector, nonprofit and for-profit partners working together to understand and address challenges and seek opportunities to strengthen Vermont’s outdoor economy. “We’re preparing for conversations in the new year to develop Vermont’s next vision for outdoor recreation,” said Jackie Dagger, Program Manager for VOREC. “To ensure that our outdoor recreation economy continues to thrive our vision will need to bring together stakeholders from across the state with a wide variety of experiences and perspectives and identify areas of agreement on policy improvements and funding opportunities that leverage the efforts of municipalities, businesses, and other Vermont organizations.”