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SAM Magazine—Boulder, Colo., April 1, 2021—A special report from the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) found that new, more diverse outdoor participants sought new recreation opportunities amid the Covid-19 pandemic. While these new participants stayed close to home during the pandemic, opportunities exist to entice these newcomers to expand their horizons. OIAReport

The findings in this special report mirror the substantial uptick seen across all outdoor participation in the preliminary report from OIA’s forthcoming 2020 Annual Outdoor Participation Report. In addition, “This one-of-a-kind report further shows the pandemic has brought in new participants as well as some new behaviors,” said Lise Aangeenbrug, executive director of OIA.

Commissioned by OIA and conducted by research firm NAXION, the special report indicated that these “new outdoor participants” (first time or significantly lapsed recreationists) were more likely to be female, younger, living in an urban area, and slightly more ethnically diverse than existing participants.

According to the report, new participants sought outdoor activities primarily to stay healthy, exercise, reduce screen time fatigue, and spend time with loved ones in a socially distanced environment. Recreation opportunities within 10 miles of home that had low barriers to entry—walking, running, biking, and hiking—were the main drivers for new participants.

“Most new participants hold a strong intent to continue their outdoor pursuits, while about 25 percent say that travel, resuming other activities, and family demands will challenge their free time and ability to continue to recreate as they currently do. Now is the time to embrace new participants and develop programming for them to continue their outdoor pursuits,” urged Stephanie Maez, managing director at the Outdoor Foundation, the philanthropic arm of OIA.

In a press release, OIA outlined several opportunities to increase retention of new outdoor participants:

  • Invest in programming that engages families in the outdoors.
  • Help new participants make their activities more social as restrictions lift.
  • Develop programs and services with the specific goal of diversifying the participant base.
  • Develop strategies for encouraging people to start with activities which have relatively low barriers to entry, such as walking, running, hiking and birdwatching.
  • Create more outdoor recreation opportunities close to home.

OIA encouraged businesses to position outdoor recreation as:

  • an antidote to the mental health consequences of the pandemic,
  • a way to get out from behind the screens that have dominated pandemic life, and
  • a means to maintain the focus on what is important in life.

Find the “2021 Special Report: The New Outdoor Participant” in full here.

We explored the what and why of this report on the "Post Pandemic Planning Huddle on March 29th. Listen here.