Academic journal article Journal of Rural Social Sciences

The Twilight of Forks?: The Effect of Social Infrasturcture on Film Tourism and Community Development in Forks, Wa*

Academic journal article Journal of Rural Social Sciences

The Twilight of Forks?: The Effect of Social Infrasturcture on Film Tourism and Community Development in Forks, Wa*

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

In the midst of economic decline caused by a drop in forest-related jobs, Forks, WA was ready to redefine itself by the early 2000s. With the help of Stephenie Meyer's successful Twilight series, which was set in Forks, community leaders embraced the opportunity for economic development by enhancing film tourism to the town. The purpose of the present study has been to evaluate how a community's social infrastructure affects film tourism success and how film tourism affects community development. It accomplishes this by examining secondary data, survey data, and semi-structured interview data of residents and leaders of Forks, WA, setting of the Twilight series, before and after the films. Findings suggest that the marketing activities that Forks implemented were successful in bringing in Twilight fans and that film tourism had a positive impact on the local economy. However, while film tourism has benefitted local government and some local businesses, it has not financially benefitted everyone in Forks, particularly the large Latino community and Native Americans.

Economic development is an important issue for rural communities as many communities that were once dependent on natural resources and manufacturing have had to look elsewhere for jobs. This is because structural changes and technological advances in these sectors, along with advances in shipping and "free trade" policies, have led many of these jobs to move to less developed countries, thus posing a threat to the survival of rural communities as homes and places of work (Flora and Flora 2008; Sharp et al. 2002). This has led many communities to seek new forms of economic development. While some communities attempt to recruit outside business and industry to locate to their areas, other communities generate and encourage local businesses and other entrepreneurial activities from within the community. One economic development activity that can encourage local business growth is to increase tourism to the location. A more specific form of tourism that some communities have used to increase the local economy is film tourism, defined as tourism to a particular place or attraction because of the destination being portrayed in a television series or movie (Hudson and Ritchie 2006).

In seeking to understand the relationship between film tourism and the particular places visited, analysts and policymakers have studied a variety of factors that increase film tourism as well as consequences of film tourism on local people. Characteristics shown to influence film tourism include destination marketing activities before the release of the film, such as inviting travel media to film the location and producing a "making of the film" feature (Hudson and Ritchie 2006); and destination marketing activities after the film's release, such as selling film memorabilia and developing a dedicated website for potential tourists (Hudson and Ritchie 2006). Film tourism may lead to economic, environmental, and social consequences.

While researchers see the need for examining the characteristics that lead to effective film tourism (e.g., Hudson and Ritchie 2006), most research has focused on what the producers, public relations personnel, local chamber of commerce, and other specialized positions or agencies can do to promote film tourism. Very few studies have examined how community characteristics can lead to effective film tourism. Furthermore, although several studies have examined the influence of film tourism on the economy and local residents (Busby, Brunt, and Lund 2003; Croy and Walker 2003; Gundle 2002; Kim and Richardson 2003; Schofield 1996; Tooke and Baker 1996), they focus more on visitation numbers and carrying capacity to cope with large increases in visitors. Other more direct measures of economic development and the economy, such as job creation and poverty figures, need to be examined. Moreover, such direct economic figures need to be researched and compared across different groups of local residents. …

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