Campgrounds belong in Hollywood.
Believe it or not, but the biggest winners at this year’s Academy Awards weren’t A-list celebrities or blockbuster franchises, so much as campground owners. Nomadland won three Oscars, including “Best Picture,” in what is already proving to be a great moment for the RVing industry.
Nomadland, as summed up by IMDB, is the story of “a woman in her sixties who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.”
The film is a triumph for indie filmmaking as well as an honest representation of nomadic communities.
Chloé Zhao (who also became the first woman of color to take home the “Best Director” Oscar for her work), told Deadline, “as storytellers, we’re in the business, anyway, of recording things; of recording time and recording people.” She said that she really wanted to capture the perspective of full-time nomads.
Assisting Zhao in telling the story of RVers and van-dwellers was 2x Academy Award Winner, Frances McDormand. McDormand took home the title of “Best Actress” for her portrayal of the nomadic protagonist, Fern. In order to deliver a genuine performance, the Oscar-winner took to the road herself.
In fact, IMDB says that “McDormand blended into the nomadic community so well that one of the local Targets offered her an application for a job. Frances’ experience of living in a van took four to five months, covering seven states. She adopted a lifestyle of being constantly on the move to make the movie seem more authentic, rather than just acting the scenes.”
And many critics agreed that the movie was nothing if not “authentic,” and for good reason. With the exception of Frances McDormand and David Strathairn, most of the cast of the film are actual nomads and local people, listing their real first names for their characters.
Nomadland is telling real stories of real Americans; or as Forbes says it, “a fictional story based on the real-life people featured in journalist Jessica Bruder’s bestselling book of the same name.”
France’s character, Fern is “just one of many Americans over 60 who — when faced with mounting debt and exorbitant housing prices — have decided to pack it all in. Into their van or small RV that is, working odd jobs on the road and living in Nomadland” (Forbes).
It’s a shared narrative as more and more Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millenials, alike are downsizing to full-time campers and contributing to a $50 billion industry (The Wandering RV). KOA even reported in their 2021 North American Camping Report, that households with an RV have grown by 2.6 million since 2019.
Okay, so Nomadland might be a great story that resonates with itinerate audiences, but why does this matter for park owners?
Well for starters, it’s great evangelism for the industry.
While Oscar numbers in viewership took a substantial dip this year (down almost 60% from 2020), there were still 9.85 million Americans that tuned in to see Nomadland take the top prize (The Guardian). This doesn’t even account for the 6.5 million viewers that tuned in for their Golden Globes wins a few weeks prior (LA Times).
For more than 10 million people, Nomadland is likely the first time they’ve actually visualized what life on the road could look like. But while it was a great commercial for remote living, the movie serves to lift up the communities in the camping and RV space.
Nomadland is a poignant and, albeit, somber story that ultimately celebrates vagabond communities.
The film showcases Fern in a number of RV park set-pieces around the midwest and southwest, with the intent of showing the struggles, friendships, and freedoms that come with living a minimalistic life. Without giving too much away, it’s even inferred that Fern could revert back to stationary life, but would rather branch out and remain on the road for the sake of independence and the memory of her husband.
Coming out of a pandemic and financial uncertainty, there’s certainly a lot of correlation with where many Americans find themselves now. There’s already a clear shift happening within the RV space.
As the KOA report states, “more than 80% of campers changed their camping habits last year – including working and schooling from the campground, turning to RVs for travel safety and security, and adding more weekdays to their trips – which, coupled with the influx of first-time campers, solidifies that many Americans turned to camping and the outdoors to make it through a challenging year.”
Additionally, 10.1 million households went camping for the first time in 2020 (KOA). Multiple sources seem to indicate that the momentum isn’t exactly slowing down after the pandemic. Forbes says that campground reservations for 2021 have increased by 500%.
So, what can campground owners expect?
For starters, more people are RVing than ever before, and Hollywood is celebrating RVing more than ever before. It stands to reason that between a pandemic, an Oscar, and the ease of working remotely, park operators should expect to see more guests in the coming seasons.
For instance, Athabasca County recently switched over to our online system and was able to take on 300 reservations on the first day. To give context, that would have taken them two weeks and three staff members to enter manually. Campgrounds like those in Athabasca or Golden Municipal have been able to take thousands of reservations annually, and completely online, while saving their staff an average of 300 hours a year in administrative work.
Adding to that, Nomadland focuses on the story of a van-dwelling individual who finds herself Boondocking and taking advantage of primitive campsites. It stands to reason that this will only add momentum to what WhereYouMakeIt quotes as the “#VanLife movement.”
According to social media, van-dwellers and the #VanLife movement accounts for over 7 million posts on Instagram a year. WhereYouMakeIt quoted a 312% growth in van-dwelling campers since 2017 – a number likely to only increase considering only 4% of current van-dwellers claim to be retired. To meet growing demand, RV park owners should consider investing in more primitive and tenting options as well as hygienic restroom and shower amenities to boot.
Lastly, people are falling in love with this movie and the camping industry as a whole online. Having a digital presence for your campground to market itself is more important than ever. Curating online reviews, or investing in online tools like Google AdWords or property management systems like Campground Booking could easily grow your park by 25% in the first year.
The takeaway is that the campground industry is blowing up, and a movie like Nomadland is just the beginning of new audiences falling in love with RV parks and the freedom of being less-tethered. As a result, more people than ever are looking for opportunities to connect with campgrounds like yours. You can help your park take advantage of the momentum by:
- Automating reservations to keep up with a growing number of guests.
- Investing in more campsites, including economic options like primitive or tent spots.
- Managing reviews and utilize online resources like Google AdWords or Campground Booking to help your park stand out.
Need an online system to help accommodate more guests 2021? Campground Booking can help! Request a demo today!