WHAT'S OUR DEAL

The outdoors is mostly male and white.

 

Across nearly every category of outdoor activity - snowsports, water sports, even hiking and camping - about 70% of participants are white. And that's not an accident; current participants are not always welcoming of others who do not look like them.

In fact, a recent Penn State study bears this out. Because of pandemic, a full 13% of U.S. adults stopped participating in outdoor activities altogether. That group, according to the study, "were significantly more diverse, tended to reside in more urban environments, and earned less annually than existing or new recreationists."

 

Why'd they stop? They didn't feel safe or welcome.

Here are some interesting numbers: the likelihood of getting turned away from a hiking trail aggressively is 2.5% (about 1 in 40 hikes). The likelihood of getting turned away from a hiking trail by a law enforcement official is 1% (about 1 in 92 hikes)*. Despite such a low percentage of negative encounters that make us feel unwelcome, it’s shocking that all it takes is just 1% to 2% to get the other 13% to stop participating in outdoor activities!

According to the same Penn State study, half the U.S. population participated in outdoor recreation in 2021, so that 13% represents millions of diverse people, people who no longer think it’s worth dealing with intimidation and other forms of aggression outdoors.

 

This is not an accident. And it goes beyond aggressive, unwelcome behavior. How many other micro-aggressive behaviors have kept women, single parents, Latinos, Asians, Gay, short, fat, disabled and everything in between from enjoying outdoor recreation. There’s a real possibility that these numbers are under-representing the full extent of how exclusionary the outdoor industry is.

But besides negative interactions, how are outdoor spaces made unwelcoming?

There are 5 major ways in which BIPOCs, ADAs, LBGTs and even single parents are excluded from participating in outdoor activities:

 

  1. Creation and enforcement of rules without input from excluded audiences.

  2. Shaming for not following etiquette or sport-specific language excluded audiences are not aware of.

  3. Participation can only occur in hard-to-reach destinations, often secret, expensive or spaces that excluded audiences can't reach and feel unwelcome.

  4. Making necessary gear unnecessarily unaffordable for excluded audiences.

  5. Existence of exclusionary regulations (i.e. hard-to-get certifications, permits and other policies).

The Everyone Is Welcome Fund (Welcome Fund) was launched in the summer of 2020 by Outerthere Adventures, LLC with the mission of removing these obstacles to participation in outdoor activities.

Why does this matter?

The outdoor recreation industry in the United States is worth approximately $900 billion and represents nearly 2% of our national GDP**. If the industry was more inclusive and welcoming of that consumers like the 13%, it could potentially be worth $360 billion more***.

 

With 7.6 million jobs, the outdoor recreation industry delivers massive benefits to local economies, where some states derive nearly 5% of their local GDP from outdoor recreation. And part of getting to that additional $360 billion means thinking about inclusivity not as an add-on, but as the business model.

But it also matters when you consider how you'd feel if you were excluded from your place of work because you didn't "fit in". Or banned from school because you're not like the other students. Or made to feel unwelcome during your visit to a store because you didn't look like their "typical customer". That's how it feels to encounter these behaviors outdoors, too.

 

And it's why we exist.

We are not an advocacy group. We take action. We are here to support BIPOC, LBGTQIA+ and ADA outdoor guides. Because that's the only way we will have a more welcoming outdoor industry.

The Welcome Fund operates autonomously as a social enterprise**** with generous funding provided from any trip with the #YouAreWelcomeHere badge as well as grants and industry sponsors who share our goals and, maybe you. Donate here.

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MEET THE TEAM

*Source: Outerthere.com data.

**Total consumer spending in 2017 based on an Outdoor Industry Assn report [PDF] and 2020 BEA analysis.

***Welcome Fund estimates.

****As a social business, The Welcome Fund does not exist to make a profit, however it is not currently a 501(c)3.