It’s a well-known refrain by now that the future of our region is closely tied to outdoor recreation.
The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, citing federal data, reports that outdoor recreation contributed $13.64 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy, created 152,000 jobs and accounted for 1.6 percent of the state’s GDP.
The latest county-level data from the state’s Economic Impact of Travel Report shows $124.6 in tourism-related spending in Warren County.
But that number doesn’t tell the whole story.
In 2009, that number totaled $137.7 million and peaked in 2019 at $194.1 million. The drop in 2020 is almost certainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This tells me the statistics and surveys collected by the Warren County Visitors Bureau are spot on,” said WCVB chief executive Casey Ferry.
“Our latest results show that over 60% of our tourists account for outdoor recreation.” she explained. “I am pleased to hear that we are on the right track and encourages us to continue to focus on outdoor recreation as a viable and successful attraction for the region.
According to state officials, the $13.6 billion figure represents a 22 percent increase from 2020 and means Pennsylvania has the sixth-largest outdoor recreation economy in the country.
If we look more closely at the numbers, RV camping accounts for over $700 million of the total and was up 17 percent from 2020. Boating and fishing is $555 million and hunting/shooting/netting is $354 million.
What brings people here?
“Probably the biggest attraction is the Allegheny National Forest, and what’s really great about it is that the ANF has such a wide range of outdoor recreation opportunities that it attracts a variety of people for different reasons.” said ferry.
“Be it boating, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, hunting, camping, etc., what draws people here, if they come here for the ANF, it’s sort of an easy transition for them to branch out and take advantage of other outdoors.” -Warren County recreational activities and places, of which there are many. The Kinzua Dam, the nearby Kinzua Bridge and the Allegheny River top the list.”
The WCVB is largely funded by hotel bed taxpayers’ money, and the lion’s share of that sum comes from hotels and Airbnbs.
“Camping can be difficult for us to statistically determine because we don’t get those numbers unless they’re camping in a permanent cabin or structure.” said ferry.
“I can tell you that just by chatting with campers, campground hosts and owners, and the ANF, camping is a huge boon to our local economy.”
With data supporting the perception that outdoor recreation is a significant economic driver for our region, the next part nurtures these resources.
“A lot of our advertising focuses and focuses on our outdoor recreation opportunities,” said ferry. “We use surveys and data to find out where people come from and why they come here. Our current research tells us that while people travel from literally all over the world, the best “hot spots” are typically within hours of cities like Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Cleveland.”
As a result, promotional efforts are focused on these areas.
“We can also use this data to find comparable markets that we haven’t fully explored and direct promotions in that direction.” she explained. “Another strategy of ours is using numbers that show a trend as a focal point. A good example of this would be motorcyclists. Data shows that Route 6 is a major draw for motorcyclists, so we have placed promotions touting the scenic drive in media popular within the group.
“As an organization, we know that trends come and go, so we work every day to stay current so Warren County can ride this wave and benefit economically. “