The impact of COVID-19 on Outdoor Recreation

The impact of COVID-19 on Outdoor Recreation

... from the perspective of Australian practitioners

Posted on 14.01.2022

The impact of COVID-19 on the Australian outdoor recreation industry from the perspective of practitioners

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted, and continues to impact, the viability of many industries worldwide. In Australia, the outdoor recreation industry, already severely affected by the summer 2019–2020 bushfires, was further affected by COVID-19 restrictions including internal border closures, stay at home orders, social distancing requirements and travel restrictions. We surveyed outdoor recreation industry representatives in Australia to assess the impact of COVID-19 on professionals in the industry, views on career choices, and perspectives on the future of the industry in a post-COVID world. We found that COVID-19 affected outdoor recreation businesses in multiple ways, with a pessimistic outlook for the industry until travel restrictions and social distancing requirements are eased and economic confidence returns. This is unlikely to happen until vaccinations are rolled out nationally and herd immunity has been achieved. Even after this, however, the industry is likely to continue to suffer through loss of qualified staff and the flow-on effects of the imposed pause in guided outdoor recreation and tourism activities. We identify an urgent need for the industry to adapt and futureproof itself against future disruptors, including the very real possibility of future novel virus epidemics or pandemics.

Management implications

  • the disruptive effect of COVID-19 on the industry, is not an aberration as another zoonotic coronavirus will manifest itself in the foreseeable future
  • living with the stochastic occurrence of coronavirus epidemics, some of which may develop into pandemics, is the new reality, and outdoor recreation providers will have to adapt to it.
  • the industry needs to develop activities that can be performed safely yet comply with increased hygiene and social distancing standards.
  • COVID-19 showed the risks of losing qualified and experienced staff and client confidence. Outdoor recreation providers need to develop strategies to minimise such losses in future pandemics


Dirk H.R. Spennemann and Rachel Whitsed
Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism. 
2021 Sep 20





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