*Two simple words are changing the ways U.S. companies advertise their products: buying power. And a recent survey commissioned by Kampgrounds of America reveals that the camping and outdoors world is quickly becoming more diverse.
Out of nearly 3,000 Americans and Canadians surveyed, nearly 1 in 5 of the 1 million people who began camping in the last year was African-American. Approximately 11% of these million new campers were Latino. Both statistics were double the rate of those same ethnic groups surveyed in 2014.
According to the study, one of the main reasons for the uptick in minority campers and hikers has to do with technological advances. Smartphones and online apps make booking campsites, locating trails, and meeting up with other outdoor enthusiasts much easier. There are even sky map applications that can help users view meteor showers or spot nearby constellations.
Even Facebook has awakened a new appreciation for the outdoors in many people of color. Nadine Jackson, a cafeteria manager, told The Los Angeles Times that she became interested in outdoor adventures after seeing posts from friends who spent time hiking near Rancho Palos Verdes. These posts later inspired her to take 17 of her family members to explore Sequoia National Park.
According to opinion surveys, the main barriers that keep African Americans and Latinos indoors are a lack of time, outdoors skills, and finances. Another recent study found that budget plays a huge role in the types of trips families take, as well as the accommodations in which they stay. The study showed that 62% of respondents would choose to stay in rental condos instead of hotels on vacation simply because they have less expensive rates. For families on a budget, camping is an affordable alternative to rising hotel rates as well.
While camping trips are seen as beloved traditions by many families, they generally require more preparation and active engagement than other types of vacations. As America inches closer to becoming a minority-majority nation, the camping industry is following suit.
Many outdoor groups and park managers have launched outreach programs in response. These efforts have included contests, community liaisons, WiFi installation, and partnerships with Google. The national park service is targeting millennials and minorities by inviting artists, bloggers, writers, and photographers with large social media followings into the parks in order to share their experiences.
It would seem that many of these efforts are working, as the increase in minority visits to parks is substantial in only a year’s time. This increase could have a significant impact on both park attendance and the sale of outdoor gear — a massive market. Annual sales of heavy duty boots alone are estimated at nearly $1 billion, while Americans spend as much as $646 billion on outdoor recreation every year. It’s just one more industry in which minority Americans are proving their buying power.
Despite experiencing an annual sales growth of about 5% from year to year, the recreational industry hasn’t seen much growth in terms of participation overall. For the last nine years, nearly half our country’s population participated in outdoor activities, but this figure has remained unchanged, until now. The fact that minority participation saw an increase this past year shows a lot of promise — both for minority groups experiencing the outdoors and for the companies who sell the gear necessary to experience it safely.