If you haven’t heard the news, the U.S. travel and tourism industry is on pace for a record-setting year of creating American jobs and growing the economy.
In fact, a new report  (PDF) released today by the Outdoor Industry Association shows the impressive impact of America’s outdoor recreation on the economy.
The study found that the outdoor industry has created 6.1 million jobs nationally and puts $646 billion into the U.S. economy each year. The study also shows that each year, three out of four Americans participate in active outdoor recreation—activities like fishing, hunting, hiking, running, swimming and camping all contribute to refueling the economy.
This new study comes on the heels of new Commerce Department data released last week, which showed that international travelers are spending more while visiting the United States—and that the receipts for U.S. businesses are reaching record highs. International visitors spent an estimated $14 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the United States in April 2012—$1.5 billion more (or a 12 percent increase) than was spent in April 2011. International visitors have spent an estimated $54.6 billion in 2012 so far, which is an increase of 13 percent when compared to the same four-month period last year.
The new report reaffirms the importance of the Obama administration’s efforts to increase travel and tourism  in the United States—and the great opportunity for visitors to enjoy the many outdoor recreational activities America has to offer.
The Commerce Department and the Department of the Interior were tasked with spearheading the president’s initiative to increase travel and tourism to the United States. Last month the two agencies released the National Travel and Tourism Strategy , a blueprint for the Federal government to welcome 100 million international visitors each year by the end of 2021. These visitors would spend an estimated $250 billion per year, supporting more jobs and spurring economic growth in communities across the country.
The outdoor recreation industry also impacts a variety of larger industries like manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, transportation and wholesale and retail trade.
This report is a reminder that we don’t have to choose between environmental protection and economic growth. It is critical to preserve jobs by protecting public lands and waters—and to ensure their attractiveness to Americans and international visitors alike.
To learn more about Commerce’s ongoing efforts to attract international visitors, visit www.trade.gov .