US camp industry adds billions to national economy

The U.S. youth camp industry contributes $70 billion to the national economy, accounting for the total value of the camp industry’s production and its ripple effects-which include business-to-business purchases and labor income, according to a study from the University of Michigan.

This figure represents the industry’s overall economic impact across the nation while also supporting more than 986,428 workers. The industry plays a vital role in fostering youth development and workforce skills throughout the country.

"This project is the first national economic impact study for the industry conducted since 1982 and builds on state-level and regional economic impact analyses conducted over the last 15 years,- said Sarah Crane , director of research at U-M’s Economic Growth Institute, who conducted the study with EGI research project manager Eli McClain.

The study, a collaborative effort between EGI and the American Camp Association, revealed that the youth camp industry’s total annual economic impact is significant, with $23 billion in labor income attributed to a combination of direct, indirect and induced impacts.

  • Direct impacts: These are the immediate economic contributions from the industry’s core operation. They include the wages of camp staff and the money spent to operate the camps.
  • Indirect impacts: These effects come from camps buying goods and services from other businesses, which creates a spending chain that boosts economic activity across sectors.
  • Induced impacts: This is the economic activity that occurs when employees from the camps and the businesses supplying them spend their wages which further stimulates economic growth.

Crane and McClain compiled an extensive dataset to date on day and overnight camp operations, encompassing more than 20,000 records and survey data from 1,137 camp operations.

The comprehensive study enabled researchers to assess economic impacts both nationally and on a state-by-state basis. In Michigan, for example, the camp industry generated a total economic impact of $836 million, comprising $446 million in camp revenue and an additional $390 million through business-to-business and employee-related purchases.

This sector supported a diverse workforce exceeding 30,000 workers-including full-time, part-time and seasonal staff-involved in the production and delivery of camping programs. It does not include volunteers or employees whose work supports Camp Division/Department operations. Additionally, it contributed $153 million in tax revenue at local, state and federal levels.

ACA President and CEO Tom Rosenberg says the study "provides the camp industry a critical launching point for demonstrating its national presence as an important context for youth development, workforce development, and state and local economic impact.-

"These types of camps’ settings and experiences likely help youth gain a deeper appreciation for the natural world,- he said. "When campers are outside and socializing with others, they can spend less time on digital devices and more time working on social skills, complementing character growth.-