The COVID-19 pandemic has put pressure on many economic areas of the United States (US), including many areas of the service sector, with some nearly destroyed. Surprisingly, public recreation has been one of the few segments of the economy that has partially benefited from the pandemic, restrictions, and lockdowns. It needs to be clarified that public recreation has been continuously and successfully developed and popularized in the American public by various private and state measures for many decades, even before the COVID-19 crisis. According to Taff et al. (2021), “outdoor recreation participation in the U.S. has been steadily increasing since the 1960s” (p. 1). Urban locations experienced a similar development trend in pre-coronavirus times. When the coronavirus came, these were closed by local authorities or avoided by concerned former visitors. To summarize, the ultimate impact that COVID-19 has indirectly given to the mass rest sector is a significant media and attention shift from urban to outdoor places.
Immediate Effects of the Pandemic
The big spike in people’s interest in the outdoor subsection of public recreation occurred in 2020 when the pandemic and related restrictions were at their peak. According to Wagner (2022), the number of adults choosing to relax in such locations for leisure increased by one-fifth during this period. Moreover, “many national parks saw record numbers of visitors in 2020” (Wagner, 2022, para. 1). Interestingly, these were all newcomers who contributed to nearly a 20% rise. Meanwhile, urban places lost their audience wholly or partially for about a year and a half and are only now regaining popularity. According to Taff et al. (2021), this shift in population preferences is due to restrictive government measures and former visitors’ concerns about their safety and health. Simply put, many of the newcomers to outdoor recreation are those who have left the urban subsector.
Strategies and Approaches Taken
As noted above, responsible organizations’ primary approach to consumers to mass rest places during COVID-19 was limiting access, which remains so in some states. Taff et al. argue that “restrictions on access” was the main response of service providers working in Wyoming, Arizona, and California (p. 2). Surprisingly, there were no significant changes in financing, infrastructure maintenance, staffing, and marketing strategies. Possible reasons are the facts that the Department of the Interior directly manages public recreation and that the crisis in urban areas has been offset by the increased interest of society in the outdoor ones. The only significant difference between mass rest services while coronavirus cases were rising and pre-coronavirus ones is that many from the first category were unavailable to visitors during the pandemic, especially in municipal places.
Personal Opinion on Public Recreation Services
As I see it, none of the existing pandemic services, such as health checks, will remain. The proof of my assumption is that most states are dropping their pandemic regimes and policies in all economic areas (Rough & Markowitz, 2022). However, the sector will change its financial strategy and approach to consumers. The reason is that after the pandemic, mass rest services, outdoor ones specifically, have become less affordable for non-white communities and ethnic minorities (Taff et al., 2021). The newly arrived campers and hikers mentioned are primarily white people from the middle and wealthy classes (Taff et al., 2021). Equity of access is a new paradigm of mass recreation in the US.
Rough, J., & Markowitz, A. (2022). List of coronavirus-related restrictions in every state. AARP. Web.
Taff, B. D., Rice, W. L., Lawhon, B., & Newman, P. (2021). Who started, stopped, and continued participating in outdoor recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States? Results from a national panel study. Land, 10(12), 1–9. Web.
Wagner, A. (2022). How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected outdoor recreation in America? Penn State. Web.