Tags: outdoorexperiences | consumers | gigeconomy | covid

Why Consumers Favor More Outdoor Experiences

a man and woman jogging in a park

By Thursday, 23 July 2020 09:32 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Increasingly, people find themselves wanting to spend time outdoors. Instead of going to a café, they want to enjoy their coffee in a park. Instead of eating indoors, they want to eat on an outdoor patio. And instead of participating in a conventional bar crawl or riding on a typical party bus, they want to move around the city on a pedal powered bar.

This new consumer interest has sparked many changes, including a new wave of innovative businesses designed to give people more interesting outdoor experiences — and existing entrepreneurs making changes to their current business models. But why the change? And will this increased interest in the outdoors remain indefinitely?

The Latent Desire to Be Outdoors

According to the biophilia hypothesis (which is not scientifically proven, but has significant supporting evidence), human beings have an innate tendency to connect with nature and other forms of life. Most of us experience this on some level; we have pets, we like gardening, we like to camp, and we feel better in a room with houseplants than a cold, lifeless one. This hypothesis suggests that all forms of love for plants, animals and the great outdoors come from a common place, innately; we're designed to seek out natural environments.

If this is the case, why does the increased desire to spend time outdoors appear to be a recent trend? One study reinforces the idea that most of us want to spend more time outdoors, and provides a potential explanation for why we're not doing it more often; 31 percent of people cite "work" as their biggest barrier. People are cooped up in offices for 40 hours a week, and spend even more time commuting; that doesn't leave much time to go hiking or camping.

Additionally, this study found that people with lower household incomes were much less likely to spend time outdoors than people in higher income brackets.

Free Time and Flexibility

With this information, one possible explanation for the resurgence in outdoor preferences could be an increase in both free time and flexibility. Work has long been the biggest limiting factor preventing people from spending time outside, but over the past decade, we've seen some major changes to the nature of work, including:

  • Working from home. The number of people working from home has steadily increased, with more than 5% of people working from home full-time and the majority of Americans working from home at least some of the time. When working from home, you immediately eliminate the commute, freeing up more time each day; you also typically have more flexibility in your hours and responsibilities — you can even work outside on your front porch if you'd like.
  • The gig economy. We're also seeing a rise in gig-based work; rather than being stuck working 40 hours per week in a set routine, employees have more freedom to choose the types of work they want to take on. They can choose their own jobs, manage multiple side hustles, and arrange their schedules as they see fit — which means making time for the outdoors more frequently.
  • Flexibility and redefined roles. Partially as a byproduct of the changes listed above, people are being given more flexibility, and are sometimes being offered redefined roles within their businesses, providing them a healthier work-life balance.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

It's also worth noting that the COVID-19 pandemic may be playing a role in forcing people outdoors. With bars, restaurants and other indoor social gatherings not permitted in most areas, people flocked to parks and open spaces. Even now, with restrictions being lifted, people are desperate to leave the house and get outside — in areas that allow them as much personal space as possible.

Studies on the Benefits of Outdoor Time

Over the past several years, we've also seen a wave of scientific studies reinforcing the idea that spending time outdoors is good for us. This isn't exactly new information; spending time in nature is shown to reduce the prevalence of myopia, depression and other mood disorders, and is a perfect excuse to get physical exercise. However, with this information top of mind, people are more inclined to follow these recommendations.

Aesthetic Trends and Reactions

More subtly, the past several decades have seen the emergence of cold, sharp, modern indoor designs. As a reaction against this trend, more people may be favoring organic, natural scenery. What better place to get this than the outdoors directly?

Whatever combination of trends and new information has been responsible for the surge in consumer interest in outdoor activities, this trend is likely to stay for the foreseeable future. If you currently own a business or are considering starting one in the future, consider adding an outdoor element to make it more enticing.

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The new consumer interest in being outdoors has sparked many changes, including a new wave of innovative businesses designed to give people more interesting outdoor experiences.
outdoorexperiences, consumers, gigeconomy, covid
Thursday, 23 July 2020 09:32 AM
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