Outdoor Recreation in Alaska: Impacts and Opportunities

Setting up camp with a view of Denali. Photo credit: State of Alaska Division of Parks and Recreation.

Setting up camp with a view of Denali. Photo credit: State of Alaska Division of Parks and Recreation.

Of all 50 states, Alaska has the lowest population density, greatest acreage of wilderness areas, and highest rates of participation in many outdoor activities. A majority of Alaskans say that opportunities to get outside are a reason they choose to live or remain in the state, and a similar share of visitors come to Alaska to experience the great outdoors. Both locals and visitors spend money in the course of their activities that circulates throughout the state economy, making outdoor recreation a substantial industry.

This report characterizes the economic impacts of outdoor recreation in Alaska. Through analysis CED estimates that in-state consumer spending related to outdoor recreation trips amounts to nearly $3.2 billion annually. That spending creates about 29,000 direct jobs, and 38,100 total jobs through a multiplier effect (indirect and induced). About one job in ten in Alaska is tied to trip-related outdoor recreation spending.

Using these expenditure figures, CED estimates the economic impact of two outdoor recreation amenities in Alaska (Olnes Pond north of Fairbanks and K’esugi Ken in Denali State Park) and one proposed project (an Anchorage-to-Seward trail).

The economic impacts of outdoor recreation reach beyond the immediate stimulus of consumer spending. Outdoor amenities contribute to an improved quality of life that attracts new residents who become part of the state’s workforce. Access to parks and trails makes neighborhoods more desirable, according to a multitude of survey data. Additional research shows that businesses are more likely to invest in places with perceived high quality of life. These impacts are more difficult to measure but are discussed in the report in qualitative terms.

Outdoor recreation provides an impetus for entrepreneurship in Alaska, as well. A previous study, Emerging Sector Series: Outdoor Products, documented the growing Alaska-based companies that build or design outdoor recreation products, serving in-state as well as out-of-state markets. This report incorporates interviews from a selection of businesses that participate in the outdoor economy, which range from a brewery to a dog sled tour provider, showing the diverse opportunities for entrepreneurship in the sector.

Read the full report: Outdoor Recreation in Alaska: Impacts and Opportunities.