2021 Takeaways for Growth in the Outfitter Industry

The outfitter industry has so much to celebrate and room to grow as well. We have gathered some of the most salient takeaways from our 3-day event to help you digest this knowledge and prepare for 2022. 


1. Our Industry Is in Transition

It’s been happening for a few years, but never has it been more apparent than 2021: the attendees of the America Outdoors Conference are trending younger. During our Opening Keynote session, "Closing the Generational Gap" with Raven Solomon, a live poll was taken to assess the generations in the room. Millennials were the overwhelming majority, followed by Gen X then Baby Boomers. According to research presented by Raven, teams are more effective when they embrace the ideas of all generations working together.


2. There Are Opportunities in OTT and CTV Advertising

Xcite Media Group introduced outfitter marketers to a concept we have not previously discussed at the AO Conference: advertising opportunities in streaming. These opportunities are important for outfitters to consider as they are now affordable for even small businesses. Over-the-Top, OTT, is a way to advertise on streaming platforms such as Hulu, Netflix, etc. Connected TV, CTV, is similar but it is viewed on a smart TV. These options are an improvement from traditional tv advertising because they are based on demographics rather than shown to everyone at the same time.


3. The Industry Can Be Doing More to Work on Diversity & Inclusion

According to Earl B. Hunter Jr. of Black Folks Camp Too, most black folks are not participating in outdoor activities because of generational fear, lack of knowledge about the outdoors, and the industry never invited them, at least not in a meaningful way. With the first two points in mind, during the invitation or marketing phase and the pre-trip phase outfitters need to educate and prepare black folks (and others who have not participated in the past) for what to expect. Earl says, “do not tell black folks to meet you at the trailhead.” They will likely not show up.

Attendees also heard from Annie Kao of Ascent Inclusion Consulting about actionable steps to make an organization more inclusive. Annie recommends beginning with an organizational audit that includes qualitative and quantitative data, such as an inclusion survey, interviews with staff, and demographic data to assess the current benchmark for diversity. Make sure you look at a variety of metrics, such as gender identity, race, age, sexual orientation, and disabilities.


4. Outfitters Should Be Prepared for Future Claims and Trials

Understanding how to prepare your company for a potential injury, discrimination, or other claim is best perceived through the lens of a jury trial. In her session, Tracey Knutson walked attendees through each step of the process. Attendees learned the importance of having and using sound policies and training in risk management and company culture, of having and reviewing an emergency action plan, and of using good and up-to-date liability waivers (or assumption-of-risk forms). And, while there are many situations where your best path is to seek settlement, there will be cases where you as an outfitter will want to take a case to trial. Tracey drove home the point that win or lose, settlement or trial, fighting a claim can be an expensive undertaking for an outfitter.


5. Federal Land Agency Leadership Clarifies Minimum Wage Implementation Timeline

Representatives from the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service shared their perspectives on trending legislation impacting permittees. The National Park Service, which has been the most proactive on implementation, stated that existing concessions that still include language from the Obama-era minimum wage Executive Order should consider the applicability of that order restored. All permits across the agencies will eventually add language including the Obama-era order, until the permit is renewed, and the Biden Executive Order is implemented. On the vaccine front, all agencies indicated that they had halted all implementation efforts due to a nationwide order blocking the vaccine mandate for federal contractors.


6. There Is No Substitute for Human Connection

This year America Outdoors broke its record for outfitter attendance at the show, with 416 attendee registrations. The trade show hall was full, and folks were happy to be reunited. In 2020, the industry had to adjust to the uncertain times in many ways. America Outdoors hosted a virtual conference that was full of important content. While outfitters gained value from hearing from the experts via zoom, the biggest benefit of a conference comes from the hallway conversations and the roundtable discussions with other managers and owners. We are proud to facilitate these connections and look forward to doing it again next year in Orlando, FL on November 29, 2022.


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