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Covid Edition: Letter from Our Executive Director

It is hard to believe a full year has passed since the global coronavirus pandemic shut down our nation, ravaged communities and caused economic disruption unseen in our lifetimes. We won’t soon forget the devastation, and there is still much work ahead to repair the damages the outdoor industry incurred. However, as I reflect on the past year, I am inspired by how our community came together to respond to this crisis and to deliver some powerful achievements, demonstrating our resilience and strength.

I am particularly proud of the following actions that OIA and our industry were able to take:

We conducted an industry-wide member survey to understand the business impacts of the pandemic and to learn how OIA can lend a hand with tools, resources and advocacy support. We heard from our members the value of focusing on critical outdoor issues such as equity in the outdoors, climate action, public lands, conservation, the outdoor recreation economy and trade. We also heard the need, loud and clear, for new ways for our community to convene. We have already begun delivering on these issues and will continue to do so in 2021 to demonstrate value to our members.

The outdoor industry showed up to support our critical work. We made many asks of you, our members, in the past 12 months, and we are humbled to share that your support will allow us to continue to serve to elevate the collective voice, influence and power of the outdoor industry. Thank you to those who stepped up to Leadership and Support membership levels.

Countless outdoor industry businesses rapidly pivoted their production to make millions of PPE units—including masks, face shields, gowns, ventilators and other critical equipment— for frontline workers. At OIA, we worked quickly to support our members with tools such as this webinar to help move efforts faster and further. Read the inspirational stories here.

Outdoor Retailer went virtual, and OIA pivoted to provide more than 20 education sessions at the Summer and Winter Online shows. Watch our on-demand sessions on topics ranging from DEI to outdoor recreation and from climate action to participation and trade.

OIA advocated on our industry’s behalf in Washington, D.C., and at the state level for economic disaster relief and delivered resources, such as our COVID-19 Hub and webinar and Campfire Conversation series. We also developed a comprehensive policy platform for the 2020 election and secured key meetings with the new administration and Congress.

Outdoorists committed to #VoteTheOutdoors and followed through. In a time of great political division and polarization, protecting the outdoors is one thing we can all agree on. Together through our #VoteTheOutdoors campaign, we were able to preserve public lands and waters, lower costs for outdoor businesses, help advance sustainable business practices and shape public policy.

Outdoor participation grew. Forthcoming research confirms what our industry was reporting anecdotally: people across the country were able to find a reprieve from the pandemic in outdoor activities like trail running, hiking, camping, fishing, biking and more. I take comfort in knowing our industry helped millions of Americans recreate safely through the Recreate Responsibly coalition and that retailers and outfitters across the country found new and creative ways to continue serving their customers, many of whom were newcomers. Our Special Report, The New Outdoor Participant (COVID and Beyond), will help you learn what motivated these newcomers and offer strategies for retaining them, even after pandemic restrictions are lifted.

The Thrive Outside Initiative released its first annual Impact Report. The Thrive Outside Initiative empowers communities to make outdoor recreation an accessible lifestyle for all. This effort is a catalyst to drive positive outcomes in critical areas such as health and wellness, youth development, social justice and community development—all more important than ever during the pandemic. Read what we were able to accomplish and how the communities adapted in year one.

We committed to building a just and equitable outdoors. As the association for the outdoor industry, we have a voice—and a corresponding responsibility to do more. The police killing of George Floyd and countless instances of racism and racial violence against Black people were horrific, and we know these events are not isolated and are part of a long history of systemic racism and injustice in our country and in the outdoors. Read our statement and commitment to do better, as well as the progress we made in 2020.

The Climate Action Corps grew to more than 80 members. In light of global circumstances around the pandemic, it would not have been surprising to see companies take a step back from their sustainability efforts. But the outdoor industry doubled down on its commitment to combat the climate crisis, and we gained dozens of new and committed Corps members. Learn more about our industry’s collective commitment to measure, plan and reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and share progress annually.

Despite the challenges and setbacks our industry endured over the past year, we also demonstrated incredible resiliency and unity. I am eager to see how this momentum carries our industry toward continued collaboration, innovation and growth.

As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to our membership team. We are here for you as we collectively work to recover.

Together We Are a Force,

Lise Aangeenbrug
OIA Executive Director