Q3 2022 Consumer Trends: The Great Outdoors (Or Should We Say, The Great Indoors?)

November 17, 2022

The pandemic has kept Americans cooped up and flocking to national parks, but are these foot traffic trends continuing into 2023?

For the last couple of years, consumers have been looking for ways to garner entertainment during a time of social distancing—when in-person social activities seemed like a thing of the past. Nationwide pandemic protection measures made way for outdoor recreation and parks to become a forethought for millions of us. In fact, 2021 turned out to be a record-smashing year for several destinations like Yellowstone, Arches, and Glacier national parks. However, our foot traffic data for Q3 2022 has shown a stark decline in national park visitors year-over-year.

Group of hikers friends walking down the stairs and enjoying view of Zion National Park, USA

2021 vs. 2022: Like Day & Night

Compared to Q3 2021, outdoor entertainment, sports venues, and national parks have seen a decrease in foot traffic, whereas more people were headed outdoors during peak pandemic times. Our location intelligence also tells us the only areas in our outdoors and recreation category that saw a positive change in Q3 2022 were theme parks, water parks, and recreation centers. It seems consumers could be focusing more on the other entertainment options that are reopened now, rather than the parks that have been accessible throughout the pandemic.

% Change in Visits by Category - Outdoors (2022 Q3 foot traffic compared to 2021 Q3)

After 2021’s record-breaking numbers, our data shows that parks and wilderness areas were sitting at a -13% change at the end of Q3 2022. Nature and outdoor entertainment categories were also down, while athletics and sports saw the biggest dip in visitors: 30% less. Last year, our national parks were overwhelmed. Because parks experienced decreased funding, high amounts of litter, and closures due to soaring visitor rates last year, this year’s foot traffic decline may provide a period of reflection and improvement after a bustling 2021.

% Change in Visits by Category - Parks by State (2022 Q3 foot traffic compared to 2021 Q3)

Are Consumers Still Getting Back to Nature?

Interestingly, our data doesn’t mean folks were only focused on outdoor recreation because of the pandemic. In our research report The Changing Habits of the Post-Move American, we analyzed the priorities of people who moved during the pandemic and their reasons for relocation. We found that about one-quarter (24%) of survey respondents said the biggest perk of their move was now having more access to parks and outdoor recreation. Americans still appreciate our natural outdoors, so what does the data really mean?

In short, it seems that foot traffic trends at athletic venues, sports facilities, and outdoor recreation areas are simply getting back to normal. National parks and other outdoor areas will likely continue to see a decrease in visitors as they get back to their regular rates of visitations, pre-pandemic. We’re heading into a post-pandemic society so people are slowly returning to work, headed to gatherings, and choosing social activities closer to home. As we saw in our Q3 2022 Trends Report, shopping is back in full swing, and movie theaters are having a big moment. We may see less road trips to the outdoors, and more get-togethers at these familiar, indoor venues. Inflation continues to flare, temperatures are dropping, and the holidays are quickly approaching. This means our nation’s parks will most likely continue seeing dips in foot traffic during Q4 2022.

For more insight into current consumer trends, download the full Q3 Consumer Trends Report, or contact us to speak with an expert today.

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