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Updated: November 22, 2023

Riding the rapids: Maine's outdoor recreation economy surged last year to $3.3B

People in kayaks Photo / Brian Threlkeld Outdoor recreation made up 3.9% of Maine’s economy in 2022, a new national report shows.

Maine’s outdoor recreation economy surged 16.5% in 2022 to generate $3.3 billion in gross domestic product, a new report by the U.S. Department of Commerce shows.

The study, from the department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, shows that the sector accounts for 3.9% of Maine’s GDP and supports 32,000 jobs. The $3.3 billion represents the highest figure for Maine since the bureau launched the barometer six years ago.

Jenny Kordick, executive director of Maine Outdoor Brands, said the data show that Maine’s outdoor industry “has staying power.”

“From snowmobiling to sailing, it’s encouraging to see growth across various outdoor activities in different seasons,” she told Mainebiz. “This diversity positions Maine favorably in the outdoor sector, boasting a range of adventures throughout all four seasons.”

Kordick, recently honored on the Mainebiz 40 Under 40 list, also noted that the surge in outdoor recreation wasn’t just a fad.

“Significant and sustained growth in our outdoor economy over multiple years shows that there is still untapped potential,” she added. 'We are excited to collaborate with key partners across the state to ensure that the outdoors remains not only a pivotal driver of statewide economic growth but is something that we continue to nurture and invest in."

Other findings 

In terms of economic impact, outdoor recreation was one of the state's top 10 sectors, the BEA said.

The Maine outdoor recreation industry added 2,184 jobs in 2022 to 32,000, a 7% jump over 2021. Manufacturing of outdoor gear and equipment contributed $352 million to the state’s economy, while outdoor retail contributed nearly $850 million.

Fisherman in water, plane above
Photo / Courtesy Maine Office of Tourism
Boating and fishing contributed $412 million to Maine’s GDP in 2022, according to the latests BEA barometer

In terms of activities, boating and fishing contributed $412 million to Maine’s GDP in 2022, followed by recreational vehicle use ($326 million); outdoor apparel and accessories ($178 million); snow activities ($68 million); and guided tours and outfitted travel ($66.5 million).

“We are pleased to know that recreational boating and fishing still hold a strong economic lead in Maine,” said Stacey Keefer, executive director of the Maine Marine Trades Association. “We believe those strong numbers reflect our world-class boating and fishing opportunities on both coastal and inland waters, plus the distinctive reputation of our boating-related businesses.”

The study was released ahead of the Maine Outdoor Economy Summit, presented by Maine Outdoor Brands and the Maine Office of Outdoor Recreation. The summit, from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, will showcase 30 Maine brands at a "Discovery Marketplace." The marketplace is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 30, from 4-7 p.m.

“The importance of the outdoor recreation sector and how it is a consistent economic driver is reinforced with the new BEA data,” said Maine Office of Outdoor Recreation Director Carolann Ouellette. “It also reinforces the importance of continual investment that supports the stewardship of our natural assets and the innovative businesses that strengthen our economy.”

More information

Find the full report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis here.

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