FORKS — Amazing what rumors of having a few vampires in town will do for the local economy.
The draw of the “Twilight” series of novels about undead teenage heartthrobs that live in Forks delivered a 48 percent increase in lodging tax revenue so far this year for the Olympic Peninsula town.
For the first nine months of the year, tourism generally did well in the region, officials told the Peninsula Daily News, due to people taking vacations closer to home because of high gasoline prices.
Port Angeles made the most in lodging tax revenues — $337,598, a 2.7 percent increase over last year — while Port Townsend, hurt by a cut in ferry runs, still only had a 0.2 percent decrease to $229,258, said Rod Davies, executive director of the Port Townsend Chamber of Commerce.
Sequim saw a percentage increase in lodging tax revenues second only to Forks, collecting $115,962, up 15.7 percent over last year, an indication of interest in the town as a retirement community, said Vickie Maples, Sequim Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director.
The amount of lodging tax revenue collected in Forks was the smallest of any entity on the peninsula at $85,159, but local officials were delighted at the boost.
“We had a wonderful summer thanks to the books by Stephenie Meyer,” said Marcia Bingham, Forks Chamber of Commerce executive director.
“We have blown up with ‘Twilight’ visitors. It has been a wonderful year for us.”
Fans of Meyer’s best-selling vampire novels — “Twilight,” “New Moon,” “Eclipse” and “Breaking Dawn” — have made the long drive to the isolated town to seek out the settings of their favorite characters, Isabella Swan, a mortal teenager who falls in love with vampire Edward Cullen, as well as Jacob Black, a Quileute werewolf.
Bingham said tourists have been coming not only during the summer, but during Fork’s long wet season.
“People come for the books, and if it’s raining, they are happy,” she said. “We all know vampires can’t be out if it’s bright.”
In September alone, Forks brought in $33,631.42 in lodging-tax revenue, double the figure for September 2007.
Bingham attributed the increase to the town’s Stephenie Meyer Day on Sept. 13, held in honor of the author.
She said she expects the release of the movie “Twilight” on Nov. 21 will drive additional tourism through next year.
High gasoline prices are to be thanked for boosts in tourism elsewhere, said Mary Brelsford, communications manager for the Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau based in Port Angeles.
“People are interested in doing close vacations with the gas situation,” she said. “They are keeping closer to home.”
Rod Davies, Port Townsend Chamber of Commerce executive director, said “stay-cations” have helped the town hold its own from tourist revenue, but he’s worried about the planned six-week closure of the Hood Canal bridge next May.
He said the chamber is gearing up to help visitors find alternative routes to the peninsula next spring. Regional tourism officials also plan to meet this week to discuss marketing plans during the closure.