FORKS — The number of visitors who checked in at the Forks Visitor Information Center dropped from a peak of 73,000 visitors in 2010 to 45,000 in 2011.
But that still puts the town way ahead of pre-Twilight times, said Marcia Bingham, director of the Forks Chamber of Commerce and the visitor center.
The number of visitors who checked in at the visitor center was 5,575 in 2005, the year the first book in Stephenie Meyer’s four-novel series, Twilight, was released.
Within a month of its release in October that year, the book was in fifth place on The New York Times’ best-seller list and later peaked at No. 1.
New Moon was released in 2006, Eclipse in 2007 and Breaking Dawn in 2008 — and the rise in visitors to Forks — where Meyer located most of the action of the novels — followed the climb in sales of the best-selling novels.
Visitors to Forks numbered 6,386 in 2006, 10,295 in 2007 and 18,736 in 2008, with most fans of the books about teen love and vampires.
In November 2008, the first movie based on the series, “Twilight,” was released, and from there, the rise in visitors was meteoric.
In 2009, 70,000 visitors arrived, followed by 73,000 in 2010, according to statistics kept by the visitor center.
“And that only includes the people who signed in at the visitor center,” Bingham said.
People who return to Forks for a second or third time usually skip the visitor center, she said.
Although in 2011 the number of visitors fell to 45,000, that’s still considerable higher than before Twilight, Bingham pointed out.
Forks, which has a population of 3,532, received more than $500,000 in sales taxes in 2011, mostly thanks to millions of dollars in sales of Twilight items, which contributed to funding school, medical clinic and housing construction projects, Bingham said.
The film of “New Moon” broke box office records as the biggest opening day in history Nov. 20, 2009.
“Eclipse” was released on June 30, 2010, and the first “Breaking Dawn” film in November 2011.
A new movie release, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II” on Nov. 16, is expected to help maintain visitors’ interest in the West End town.
The first month of this year, 1,062 visitors checked in at the visitor center, Bingham said.
“And this is January,” she said, noting that the off-season is still busier than it was in the height of tourist season before Twilight.
In July 2004, a mere 1,005 visitors stopped at the center, with 78 in January 2005.