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Posted by Claire Matthews
Sometimes, you don't create a brand so much as you have a brand thrust upon you. And if you play your cards right, that can work out just fine. That's what's happening in northwest Washington State, which has become a hot spot for vampire tourism.

That's tourism for those who love vampires, of course, not for vampires themselves. Because, as any red-blooded Robert Pattison fan knows, Port Angeles and the neighbouring communities of Forks and La Push are the setting for Stephenie Meyer's record-smashing Twilight books. And these rather depressed resource-based towns have wasted no time in cashing in on the craze.

Want a Twilight extravaganza? Black Ball Ferry has created a three-day (yes, three glorious days!) self-guided tour that takes visitors to various key locations so they can "live the events for themselves." The Forks Visitor Information Center has maps highlighting all the sites from the book, much like the "homes of the stars" maps that are sold in Hollywood. Or, you can take one of three daily bus tours offered by the Dazzled by Twilight Tour Company—only $40 per person.

The potential payoff for this kind of tourism is huge—but you've got to strike while the iron is hot, because nobody knows how long any craze will last. The area's tourism managers have done a great job of quickly rebranding the region as "Twilight country," and the communities are right on board (as typified by clever touches like the "Dr Cullen Vampire Parking Only" sign at the Forks Community Hospital). Forks, a town of 3,200 people, now gets 40,000 visitors a year, and hotels, restaurants, and other area attractions are all reaping the benefits.

Literary tourism is nothing new, of course. Fans of Ian Rankin's novels can take the Inspector Rebus Tour of Edinburgh (it will come as no surprise to anyone who has read the books that they start and end at the pub). In Dublin, Bloomsday celebrations now last a week, so that James Joyce fans have ample opportunity to recreate the events in his most famous book, Ulysses. And there are so many Jane Austen tours available—of London, of the Lake District, of all of England—that holidaying book clubs must be hard-pressed to decide where to go.

The people of north-west Washington state can only hope that Edward, Jacob and Bella have the staying power of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. In the meantime, they're making it as easy as possible for sighing teenage girls to follow in the footsteps of their favourite characters—and embracing the opportunities created by the vampire brand.

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