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Outdoor Economy

Outdoor Entrepreneurs on Public Land: Risk, Reward, and Government Shutdown

A look into the benefits and history of public lands and national parks and the risks of doing business with the government

Public lands are incredibly valuable to the economy and often bring a sense of national pride and enjoyment. 48% of entrepreneurs surveyed by Small Business Majority agreed that access to public lands and other outdoor opportunities was a large reason why they live and do business in their state and “90% believe public spaces that draw tourists could boost business for local restaurants, hotels, grocery stores and more for drawing visitors”. There are many outdoor entrepreneurs who have carved out a successful niche tied to public lands that provides them with a prosperous and enjoyable lifestyle. Yet, there are also risks and sacrifice when your business is tied to land controlled by the government.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there are over 6,555 national parks worldwide that are defined as: “conservation of wild nature for posterity and as a symbol of national pride”. The United States is a recognized leader in the history of preservation of public land starting with president Andrew Jackson signing legislation to protect the Arkansas Hot Springs in 1832, then President Abraham Lincoln signing the Yosemite Grant in 1864, and President Ulysses S. Grant signing legislation to establish Yellowstone National Park as the first internationally recognized National Park in the world in 1872. Later, Theodore Roosevelt greatly expanded land conservation by protecting more than 150 million acres of public land and establishing 5 national parks during his lifetime. The efforts of private citizens like Galen Clark and John Muir were instrumental in influencing government officials in order to make conservation legislation happen. Today, the United States has 401 sites and 84 million acres of land under the protection of the National Park Service. The majority of national parks provide outdoor recreation and environmental education opportunities for millions of visitors every year.

YosemiteOne of the most famous of these parks in the United States is Yosemite National Park. Yosemite was given it’s name in 1851 by Lafayette Bunnell, a doctor who spent time with indian hunters of the Mariposa Battalion and misunderstood “Yosemite” as the name of the Ahwahneechee tribe that the Battalion was searching for. “Yohhhe’meti” actually meant “they are killers” in the native language of the Ahwahneechee referring to the soldiers. In 1890, President Benjamin Harrison signed a law that protected 1500 acres in the Yosemite Valley. Thanks to an epic meeting between John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt in the Yosemite Valley in 1903, the protection was expanded to the surrounding mountains and eventually to the 761,268 acres protected in the park today.

 

Over 3.7 million people visit Yosemite each year to hike through the 800 miles of trails among the giant Seqouias, rock climb the granite boulders or 3300ft peak of El Capitan, ski through the majestic slopes in winter, or raft the Merced River. Many outdoor entrepreneurs, guides, and park rangers lead groups on various excursions through the park’s vast expanses of biodiversity.

On Yosemite’s 123rd birthday, all visitors are being sent home and businesses are being shut down. This is true for all the government run national parks and wildlife refuges across the United States. Over 21,379 National Park employees are being furloughed due to the government shutdown that happened October 1, 2013.

That is just one of the risks of doing business on public land.

It often takes a lot of work to wade through the bureaucracy in order to get a permit to provide a service in a national park or wildlife refuge. Permits can sometimes be granted through an application process. There are also opportunities to bid on government contracts in order to become a concessionaire. If one should become fortunate enough to win the bid, they must operate under the strict guidelines outlined in the contract. The benefits will sometimes result in the exclusive right to run certain trips and provide services on the land. This can be very rewarding and give access to places where others are forbidden. Some issues can arise from the strict scheduling, pricing, and numbers of clients that are allowed at one time. All of that needs to be taken into consideration before accepting the terms of the contract. I know many operators who have done very well providing ferry tours to national parks and wildlife refuges, although sometimes they are required to run regardless of the number of passengers.  They count on the times of plenty to make up for the slow times.  It can sometimes be a delicate balancing act.

There are many risks and rewards for doing business on public land. Any entrepreneur who is interested in going through the process must consider all the consequences before taking action. Try to go through every scenario and make a plan. Many things can affect your business that are beyond your control, even a government shutdown.

Massive Opportunity for Conservation and Business, Will They Miss it?

 

On top Rock Arms Open

There are major opportunities in the outdoor economy that have often been overlooked.

The disconnect between conservation and economic growth comes as a result of misunderstandings and misrepresentations of social and political groups that are either focused on protecting the environment or on building the economy. The truth of the matter is that
there is opportunity for both economic growth and conservation. This becomes clear when one does a proper analysis of the situation and removes all political biases. In fact, you cannot have one without the other. Ecological sustainability will never be achieved through a focus on environment and biodiversity alone.
Social and economic values and needs must become an integral concern of nature conservation management (TNSW p5).
Well managed natural resources have tremendous benefits to human health and quality of life as well as economic, education, and scientific advancement. This is a theme throughout this website and multiple reports.

The business sector does itself a disservice to try to demonize the conservation community as standing in the way of economic progress. Clean water, clean air, and attractive natural beauty are huge drivers of economic growth and social well-being. Denial that there is any need for conservation will only harm the economy in the future.
Entrepreneurs and conservationists who work together in a purposeful, ethical way using common sense can achieve great social and economic progress that is sustainable and beneficial to the people and the planet.

The Power of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism

Many conservation organizations see tourism as one of the sectors with the greatest potential for linking conservation to economic development. ( IUCN-Kouni Group) Tourism is the largest industry in the world and growing fast. “For wealthy westerners, travel is now an addiction” (The Economist).
Tourism generates over $2 trillion in spending, $730 billion in earnings and 6.5 million full-time jobs while growing 4-5% annually regardless of war, disease, or terrorism. ( Needham, RRMP at OSU).

Tourism can also be harmful. Mass Tourism can lead to overcrowding, congestion, and overuse causing pollution, waste and degradation of natural resources.

On the other hand,
carefully developed sustainable tourism and eco-tourism can empower local people while providing financial and conservation benefits. In fact, the outdoor recreation industry can provide much greater employment and economic opportunities to a community and have a much lighter impact on local environments than industries that focus on extraction of natural resources. Employment related to recreational activities can exceed employment related to resource exploitation by more than 5 times (Kuenzi and McNeely) . Wildlife related recreation (fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing) on National Forest lands provide a significant benefit to state and regional economies throughout the nation. In 1996, wildlife related recreation created 238,800 full time jobs and generated $21million in state sales and income taxes (USFW).
In 2012, outdoor recreation contributed $646 billion in consumer spending to the US economy and more than $39.7 billion in tax revenue while creating 6.1 million American jobs(OIA 2012). Outdoor recreation contributes nearly twice the positive economic impact than the automotive, pharmaceutical and oil industries.

How to build a sustainable outdoor recreation industry

In order to build a successful outdoor industry there must be a focus on customer satisfaction as well as environmental conservation
. “Satisfied customers are believed to affect the long-term viability of the organization in the competitive business environment and also for enhancing experience of visitors with attraction.” (IJMMR, Vol. 4, No. 1) The integrity of the facilities and natural resources are crucial to customer satisfaction. The Association of British Travel Agents found that
one in three travelers now believe that vacation products should have an environmental rating. ABTA’s study also showed that 19% of these travelers were willing to pay more for it.
Nature-based businesses are dependent on clean water and untrammeled natural landscapes(CNBT-BC).

Customer service, empathy, and local knowledge are also extremely important
. Training is a key factor to the success of any organization and staff must be provided with proper training in terms of communicating with guests (IJMMR, Vol. 4, No. 1).
Enhancing quality of interpretation at visitor centers, attractions, and on tours is a major opportunity area for nature tourism. People learn better when they are using as many senses as appropriate. It is generally recognized that people retain 10% of what they hear, 30% of what they read, 50% of what they see, and 90% of what they do (TNSW p5).

Most of all, building a sustainable economy that will have long-term benefits for the people and the environment requires the cooperation and teamwork of the entire community. Every nature reserve needs a management plan and a dedicated community of volunteers to care for it.

People want to live healthy, vibrant lives in an area where they can enjoy themselves in the outdoors. This can be achieved through cooperation between both the business and conservation community.

Other Related Articles:

http://adventureblog.nationalgeographic.com/2013/05/29/guides-are-portals-to-the-outdoor-world-lets-give-them-the-support-they-need/#%21

http://adventureblog.nationalgeographic.com/author/averystonich/

http://www.wengerna.com/blog/outdoor-recreation-americas-overlooked-economic-giant/

What Industries thrive in a recession?

Fishing Sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT INDUSTRIES THRIVE IN A RECESSION?

Many would think of industries like healthcare, education, business services, and debt settlement.

When the going gets tough, the tough go camping.

I can remember when the stock market crashed in 2008.  It was clear that this was going to be serious and not some easy thing. I went into a reading frenzy to learn all I could about what was going on and how to prepare.  The bookshelves were filled with doomsday predictions calling for another great depression, inflation, unemployment and so forth.  I gave particular attention to the information that was backed by research and followed patterns of earlier recessions.  It became more and more obvious, that the years ahead were going to be extremely tough.

I called my friends in the outdoor industry to warn them about the predictions.

“This is going to be serious” I said “You better be prepared to tighten up.  It is not going bounce back any time soon.”

I had a conversation with one of the senior guides who had been through a number of recessions and worked around the world for many different companies such as biking, hiking, climbing, kayaking, and outdoor gear companies.  He was calm, and said it was typical for the outdoor recreation industry to do well in hard times.

To my surprise, after a brief lull, business picked up and even began to break records of the numbers of visitors even though the news was full of doom and gloom about the economies around the world.

He was right!

People are not willing to give up their vacations.  Travel and tourism continued to thrive.  We saw an increase in domestic travel rather than longer exotic trips. Studies showed that 72 percent of Americans preferred shorter trips

People seemed to look to the outdoors to sooth their souls.

More than 140 million Americans continued to make outdoor recreation a priority despite all the uncertainty according to the 2012 OIA economic report.

Outdoor industry gear sales came back strong and were up over 8 percent and product sales were over $120 billion in 2012.

A record number of travelers visited the US national parks even with the threats of budget cuts and layoffs looming ever closer.

Adventure travel boomed globally growing over 17% in 2009 and 2010. Adventure Travel accounted for about $89 billion in global spending making up about 16% of all departures from North America, South America and Europe.

There is a lot more to this industry.  Even with Europe facing increasing challenges in 2013 and the fiscal challenges in the US, people’s thirst for adventure in the great outdoors shows no signs of slowing down.

What was your experience with the economy since2008?  What challenges are you facing now?

 

Resources for Outdoor Entrepreneurs

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Gorkaazk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When an outdoor entrepreneur sets out to build an outdoor recreation venture, they find that there are a number of resources to learn from.  A number of organizations through out the United States and beyond have been formed in order to help the outdoor recreation industry grow and to set standards for risk management and best practices.  One such group is The Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals (SORP).

SORP is a membership organization with a mission to promote, advance, and serve outdoor recreation professionals in research, planning, management, and policy development.

SORP offers members a variety of benefits such as professional development, networking, recognition, scholarships, news, technical resources,  and an annual conference.

 

According to the 5 year Strategic plan, the SORP has identified a number of ambitious goals for:

  • Communications and Marketing
  • Professional Development and Education
  • Financial Strategy
  • Strategic Partnerships
  • Operationslearn more about SORP on their webpage at http://www.recpro.org/

 

 

 

 

The Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism (ESTC) Conference 2013 in Nairobi Kenya

 

The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) is the most well known and respected organization in the ecotourism industry.
TIES describes itself as “a non-profit association committed to promoting responsible tourism practices that benefit conservation and communities.”
There are over 500 organizations that are members of TIES in this global network that reach over 120 countries.
TIES is a global community  with over 1,200 members from professionals  and organizations spanning over 120 countries.
TIES and its members are dedicated to  promoting the principles of ecotourism   defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” (TIES, 1990)
Every year TIES organizes the Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC) as a networking and educational event to help stake holders share ideas and form collaborations in order to advance the sustainability goals for the tourism industry.
I was delighted to attend the 2011 ESTC conference in Hilton Head South Carolina near where I live. The number of contacts and educational presentations were well worth the visit.
The local “Gullah” people of Hilton Head island are still talking about how great it was to have the ESTC conference in their home town.  One Gullah woman recently told me “It was one of the first times they met people who understood them.”
The 2013 ESTC conference is being held in Nairobi, Kenya September 24-27.  This is an excellent event for all tourism professionals and ecotourism stakeholders.  Go to http://www.ecotourismconference.org/

 

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