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Minority Report: Can a Diverse Camper Population Grow Outdoor Sports?

27 May, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
As Minorities Venture into Parks and Campgrounds, Sports Like Fishing, Hunting and More Stand to Benefit

A recent statistic regarding the growing participation in minorities in camping is great news; after all, this is a demographic that for years was predominantly white. But the outdoor sports event industry has a question: what’s in it for us? Can any corresponding minority growth be expected in sports such as fishing, hunting and the like? And can it help sports events expand and become more inclusive?

To a large extent, it depends on the efforts made by various governing bodies and commercial organizations. Certainly, the potential for growth is there. According to the 2016 North American Camping Report, an annual independent study supported by Kampgrounds of America, Inc. (KOA), more than one million households in North America started camping last year thanks in part to growing participation by minority groups. Of these new campers, 18 percent are African-American, 11 percent are Hispanic, and 44 percent are Millennials, according to the report.

Segments of the outdoor sports industry are already making inroads in reaching out to minorities. The National Shooting Sports Federation (NSSF) has released a new report, “A Hispanic Market Study Firearms and the Shooting Sports,” which found that 72 percent of Hispanic respondents reported participating in outdoor recreation such as camping, boating, hiking, golfing or fishing in the past year, and that 41 percent of respondents had been to a shooting range. Of the Hispanics surveyed, 18 percent reported owning a firearm, and an additional 25 percent said they would like to own a firearm in the future. Desire to own a firearm in the future is strong, at 27 percent, among Hispanic women.

As an online article in Sports Destination Management’s website noted, “Translated into dollars, it’s easy to see why marketing shooting sports to Hispanics is of interest to the market: Hispanics currently wield buying power of more than $825 billion, quickly approaching $1 trillion, according to the NSSF.  To try and attract more non-traditional demographics to ranges, the Foundation advises ranges to reach out to a more diverse pool of participants and create an environment that welcomes new shooters.”

The outdoor industry has long remained a glass ceiling for minorities. An article in the Kansas City Star noted that statistics from the most recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Association Recreation show that whites made up 86 percent of all fishermen nationally, according to the survey, issued in 2011.Whites made up an even larger percentage of hunters, 94 percent.

But the glass ceiling is giving way. The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, which represents the boating and fishing sector, has been active in recruiting minority participation to the outdoors. A new program called Vamos A Pescar (Let’s Go Fishing) was recently introduced as a way to appeal to Hispanic fishermen. The website VamosAPescar.org tells of a campaign designed to encourage Hispanics, especially families, to get involved in outdoor sports.

An increasingly digital world is also lending itself to greater minority participation in camping and outdoor sports. Campers are continuing to use the Internet to look up information on local attractions and research destinations or trails. This is even more pronounced with African-American (50 percent), Hispanic (45 percent) and Asian-American campers (45 percent), among which technology usage and demand for Wi-Fi at campground outpaces white campers (39 percent). Hispanic campers (71 percent versus 64 percent among African-American campers, 54 percent of Asian-Americans and 44 percent of whites) are most likely to use some type of mobile app or online resource in their trip planning.

While many sports have been popular among diverse populations for years, it’s easy to see that a boost in the number of campers can only benefit everyone. A wide range of businesses serving outdoor sports – equipment rentals for fishing, canoes, kayaks, mountain bikes and more – stand to benefit from increased camper populations. In addition, other outdoor sports, including trail running and hiking may also see growth.

A rising tide, as they say, lifts all boats.

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