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New Business Opportunities in the Booming Outdoor Recreation Industry

Outdoor activity has increased by 26% in the past few years alone. Already popular activities like running, hiking, camping, and fishing have become particular favorites. Research suggests that 43% of Americans plan to further increase their outdoor recreation. Pandemic-related quarantines and remote work have made outdoor recreation a favorite activity among many Americans.

Outdoor recreation provides the opportunity to exercise, socialize, and improve mental health. The uptick in recreation can also mean new business opportunities, particularly for companies already operating outdoors.

1. Hiking Tours

Providing hiking tours is a complicated but rewarding business. It means planning hike routes, hiring, and training trail guides, and creating an enjoyable customer experience. It’s also important to protect customers during each hike, particularly if you provide tours across uneven or remote areas.

You might specialize in several different types of tours. Some companies offer adventure hikes, which feature challenging terrain better suited for athletic climbers. You could also offer a more casual wildlife experience through tours that introduce customers to the great outdoors.

Hiking tour companies can quickly find success. Make sure to hire and retain high-quality guides that provide a meaningful experience. Make sure your guides are familiar with the area and all required safety precautions. Guides should also have skills in communication, listening, and public speaking. They may also need to obtain a certification in CPR or off-road navigation. Your company may need to invest in trail signs, maps, or other supplementary tour items.

2. Flying Tours

Like hiking tour companies, flying tour companies rely on great guides and well-planned routes. Your company will also need to purchase the right equipment — including certified aircraft — and make sure that all equipment is properly maintained over time. Flying tour companies must abide by all air tour safety standards upheld by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

All aerial tour companies need licensed pilots with experience flying helicopters or smaller aircraft. You will also need to purchase aircraft, maintenance equipment, insurance, and any required permits or licenses.

3. Snorkeling Tours

Snorkeling tour companies introduce customers to entirely new underwater worlds. Your location will help determine the type of snorkeling tour you offer. Customers might see coral reefs, fish and shark species, turtles, and dolphins — all while enjoying clear, blue waters.

No matter where you’re located, you will need to invest in the right equipment. Higher costs can include a passenger boat and snorkeling permits. You might also need to cover expenses like life vests, snorkeling gear, wetsuits, or float aids for weaker swimmers.

Snorkeling tour guides will need skills in public speaking and communication. Look for guides who also have strong snorkeling and swimming skills, and who might also be familiar with life-saving measures like CPR. Your company will also need employees with valid boating licenses.

4. Sporting Equipment Store

Running a sporting goods store comes with its own set of challenges. Store employees should have skills in problem-solving and recreation, to help customers find the right equipment for their needs. You will also need employees with skills in business operations, inventory management, sales, customer service, and finance.

Some sporting goods stores only offer equipment for a particular sport or category of sports. For example, you might choose to open a sports store that sells parts and equipment for sporting vehicles. Employees can help customers choose the right vehicle engine and other equipment for off-roading or pleasure driving.

Most sporting equipment stores thrive in areas where people participate in recreational activities. Look to open your store near a stadium, sports complex, or university. If possible, find a location near a popular college or professional sports clubs. This will allow you to sell products for athletes and products that commemorate people’s favorite teams.

5. Campervan Conversion Business

Campervan conversion companies help customers transition their vans to recreation-ready vehicles. Instead of buying a brand new van, these companies help customers save money by transitioning to a van they already own. The long-term prospect of a campervan conversion business is promising, particularly with customers looking to give their vehicle a second life.

Many campervan conversion companies provide a comprehensive suite of transition services. They will customize a vehicle’s interiors, clean carpets, add a new engine, and even retrofit camping or recreational equipment a customer might request. Some companies might also offer luxury van conversion services that feature additional technology or extra-comfy materials.

Employees of campervan conversion companies should know different van types. They should understand equipment history and specifications, and how to identify which conversion services a customer might need. They will also need skills in electricity and plumbing since converted campervans need lighting, water, and other fixtures.

6. Summer Camps

Providing a summer camp is a worthwhile undertaking. It requires organizing activities, handling payments, and managing campers during program hours. You may also need to provide safety or emergency response training for employees who deal directly with campers.

Summer camp organizers need employees who are enthusiastic, patient, and resilient. These qualities are particularly important for counselors who spend most of their time around youth. You’ll need to invest in equipment, supplies, and food for camps that provide snacks or meals.

It’s important to consider which type of summer camps you want to offer. Some companies hire coaches and offer sporting camps. Other camps might introduce campers to artistic or creative projects. Many summer camps are more general, featuring a range of common outdoor activities like hiking, rock climbing, or water sports.

7. Horse Riding Business

Providing horse riding services is a great way to introduce customers to both animals and the outdoors. It’s a large commitment: many horse riding companies spend large amounts of time maintaining a stable, feeding and training horses, and organizing trail rides.

Horse-trained employees can help you handle all of these responsibilities. Trail guides should know the area and know how to encourage customers during a ride. Internal customers might need skills in marketing, finance, or business management. After expanding your horse riding business, you might also need to hire an onsite veterinarian to look after your animals.

After paying your employees, you’ll also need to cover costs in equipment, trail upkeep, barn maintenance, and horse feed. Total costs may also include safety permits, particularly if children will be participating in trail rides.

8. Landscape Photography

Creating a landscape photography company requires a unique blend of marketing and skill. You’ll need a trained eye to select the right blend of composition, lighting, and contrast. Landscape photographers also need skills in editing images after taking them.

It’s important to identify the type of landscape photography you want to offer. You might specialize in photography for business, families, or nature-only shots. Your field of focus might also influence the lenses, cameras, editing software, tripods, and equipment you purchase.

Location is an important component of successful landscape photography. Choose photography locations that feature attractive wildlife or natural features like waterfalls, mountains, or other backdrops. Many companies provide landscape photography in tourist locations with high visual appeal.

The long-term outlook of a landscape photography company will also depend on your reputation. It’s important to provide a high-quality customer experience and obtain positive online reviews. Building a strong digital portfolio also helps demonstrate your aptitude for creating professional products.

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