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Rosen looks to rebuild outdoor recreation

Updated June 15, 2021 - 6:01 pm

WASHINGTON — Participation in outdoor recreation increased during the pandemic, but trip cancellations and travel restrictions resulted in job losses in some sectors of the industry in Nevada and other states, officials told a Senate subcommittee on tourism Tuesday.

While sales of equipment, such as bikes, boats and recreational vehicles, soared last year, businesses that relied on customers suffered financial losses.

Closures and travel restrictions hurt guides, outfitters, campgrounds, marinas, concessions, non-profit education organizations and local governments, said Colin Robertson, administrator of the Nevada Division of Outdoor Recreation.

“These impacts hit Nevada particularly hard,” Robertson told the subcommittee.

“While we did see an increase in Americans exploring nature and getting outdoors, many had to cancel trips or were unable to spend money on recreation due to the pandemic,’’ said Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., chair of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on tourism, trade and export promotion.

Besides revenue losses to small businesses in Nevada, about 6 percent of those in the industry lost their jobs, Rosen and Robertson said.

Rosen held the fact-finding hearing to determine what role the federal government can play in helping the industry recover.

Rosen’s panel is studying the impacts on all aspects of the tourism industry to determine federal strategy to help states and industry recover from the pandemic.

Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the ranking Republican on the subcommittee, said “the pandemic impacted everyone in this country.”

Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association, said the ranks of U.S. anglers increased from 50 million to 55 million during the pandemic, which boosted revenues due to licenses, tackle, boat and equipment sales and taxes.

But charter captains, restaurants, marinas and fishing lodges lost customers and revenue, Hughes said.

The outdoor recreation industry accounts for $778 billion in economic output nationally, supporting 5.2 million jobs, Rosen said.

In Nevada, outdoor recreation generates $5.5 billion in economic output and accounts for 60,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Rosen said federal help to land management agencies and increased staffing, as well as infrastructure improvements can help revive segments of the outdoor recreation industry.

“Our nation’s outdoor economy is still hurting, and Congress has a role to play in helping rebuild it,” Rosen said.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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