Newly published data by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shines the light on a vibrant and expanding outdoor recreation industry growing three times faster than the U.S. economy at almost 19% per annum. This staggering $862 billion (2021) industry is responsible for 4.5 million direct jobs and 3% of the total salary and wage bill in the U.S.
Similar economic impacts are also being reported from Europe and Australasia, where sixty to seventy percent of the general population participates, enabling this industry to flourish.
Can the outdoor and adventure industry in South Africa provide similar opportunities to sustain and create profitable ventures and well-paying job opportunities?
This article aims to make a compelling case for the outdoor and adventure industry as a sector with significant growth potential and to provide entrepreneurs and job seekers with exciting opportunities.
Economic trends supporting this case include:
Recent local studies have recognised the significant contributions made by the South African outdoor recreation industry to the economy (7% of SA GDP) and employment (10% of total direct and indirect jobs).
The fact that less than 10% of the population is active in the outdoors, coupled with the rapid expansion of the middle class, supports early trends of a "new" consumer ready to embrace the outdoors as a place to grow, learn and relax.
Very few markets have the potential to double in the next decade.
The global shift to the "experience economy" as the primary driver of economic activity places the outdoor and recreation industries in a favorable position.
People are starting to value an experience more than acquiring more belongings.
South Africa and Africa have the unique situation of having a youthful population, with the rest of the world confronted with a rapidly ageing workforce.
Urbanisation will continue to drive the need for restoration and relaxation in outdoor spaces.
Mental health-related illnesses have reached pandemic proportions, clearly indicating populations suffering from a "nature deficit."
Experiential learning, including adventure-based experiential learning, is being recognised as being five times as effective compared to traditional learning methods. Can the education authorities continue to ignore this reality?
South African academics, practitioners and certain training providers have been recognised as world-class authorities on adventure-based experiential learning. Can you afford not to acquire this unique skill?
The long list of personal benefits of outdoor recreation can no longer be ignored by a country desperate for new ways to promote well-being and social cohesion.
Considering that trends are our friends, we should also take South Africa's geographic advantages and diversity into account compared to other parts of the world. South Africa truly has it all!
South Africa has a lot to offer to those wishing to fill a void in a new market, and the outdoor and adventure industry is a strong contender and a sector with great potential.