Tourists and area directors are in disagreement over the name of the area

Is naming confusion a barrier to tourism?

Some town officials are concerned that unclear naming of the area could be effecting tourism.

Lake Cowichan or Cowichan Lake?

While the distinction may be clear to most residents, some officials with the Town of Lake Cowichan are concerned that the branding of the town, most notably the confusion surrounding its name and the name of the surrounding area, is holding back its image and its potential as a tourist destination.

The naming issue however, isn’t just an issue with potential tourists, but even within the Cowichan Valley itself. Councillor Bob Day, who has been leading these recent discussions at the council table, said that even the area directors with the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) aren’t on the same page when it comes to the name(s) of our community.

“During meetings, regional directors won’t want to say that we live in Lake Cowichan, they’ll say that it’s Cowichan Lake,” Day said. “I’ll joke about it often, that it’s what’s politically correct – we’re on the edge of the Cowichan Valley. It’s a bit silly, but we should all be using one name if we’re trying to sell something.”

The most conventional nomenclature, which the Lake Cowichan Gazette and many other local organizations use, is that Lake Cowichan refers only to the town, while Cowichan Lake refers to the lake itself along with the surrounding communities of Youbou, Honeymoon Bay, Caycuse and Mesachie Lake.

While the topic has recently come up around the council table, Mayor Ross Forrest said that the name confusion is nothing new for the town and that he’s unconvinced that it could be having an effect on the area’s tourism.

“When [tourists] are coming here, they’re coming to Lake Cowichan or they’re coming to Cowichan Lake, it doesn’t matter what they’re calling it,” Forrest said. “It’s nothing that we’ve ever really focused on, but it does come up now and then.”

The town will be hosting a series of Valley-wide “webinars” this summer, one of which, set to take place in late June, is planned to focus on the branding of local communities. Day said that something he hopes that will come from that webinar is less of an emphasis on the “Cowichan” part of Lake Cowichan, seeing as the word could already be used to refer to Cowichan Bay, Cowichan Tribes or the entire Cowichan Valley.

Day also said he hopes the town can adopt an official slogan, and offered “come for lunch, stay for a lifetime” and “BC’s best kept secret” as his own personal suggestions. The town did have a slogan at one point, though “it’s worth the drive” apparently failed to catch on.

“In my opinion, we can’t sell ourselves as an industrial logging town anymore,” Day said. “We should sell ourselves with the lake, as having lots of outdoor activities and great places to eat.”

The slogan could be incorporated into a new town entrance sign as well, seeing how the term Cowichan Lake is more pronounced than the town’s actual name.

According to Day, the sign at the entrance to town is due for an entire redesign. He named the sign at the entrance to Parksville, with its use of timber, as an example of what Lake Cowichan’s own sign should look like.

“It has these big, huge wooden timbers [sic], and that’s part of what we’re about too,” Day said. “There’s not a lot of wow factor [in the current sign], aside from the bears.”

The town has also looked into having a commercial produced to promote tourism. The town’s options have ranged from $3,000 to 35,000, with the priciest package including a redesign of all of the relevant websites and a mobile app. Due to more pressing issues coming up recently, such as the water treatment upgrades, the town has had to pass on that for now.

With proper branding, Day believes, Lake Cowichan could see a rejuvenation in tourism. BC’s best kept secret, as he calls it, would become a little less secretive, and its name much more clear.

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