The moniker ‘Oceanside’ could survive a review of the region’s tourism strategy, which starts this Friday.
Or, it might not.
That, said Blain Sepos, completely depends on the results of a multi-phase review of how tourists and local stakeholders see tourism in the mid-Island region between Nanoose Bay and Deep Bay, including the communities of Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Coombs, Errington and Whiskey Creek.
The Oceanside Tourism Association (OTA), where Sepos is executive director, has hired Stormy Lake Consulting to conduct research with a goal of developing a new brand strategy to increase the appeal of the Parksville and Qualicum Beach area to visitors.
Will that mean the word ‘Oceanside’ as a regional descriptor will be out? Sepos cannot say.
“Most recently, the Parksville and Qualicum Beach names have been front and centre,” he said. “Oceanside has been the tagline, used after introducing people to the area. But not a lot of people identify the area as Oceanside.”
Yet, the name of the tourism region here, is only a small part of the OTA’s project.
Starting Friday, consultants with Stormy Lake, out of Calgary, will be surveying visitors at various tourism locations here. The work will last all summer, Sepos said, giving the consultants a large scope of data to apply.
This step, he continued, is to ask visitors about the current brand —Oceanside — to see if they know what it is. The questions will also seek people’s perceptions about the region, why they are visiting, where they came from and their values around travel — or in other words, why visiting this part of the world is important to them.
Sepos said with this information in place, the consultatns and OTA will ask similar questions of local stakeholders —from tourism-related businesses to the general public. Sepos added he’s not sure how the general public will be included, but said it would happen in some form.
All of the information gathers, continued Sepos, will be used to create a road map for attracting more visitors to the mid-Island. It will be the basis for new visuals, messages and logos to achieve that goal.
“We have done research over the years, but not for a visitor-stakeholder-led brand,” Sepos said. “It was always done, more so, on how to spend our tourism (promotion) dollars.”
Yet, he said over the last four or five years, there have been significant changes in tourist patterns in the market, especially with the economic issues of late. Now, Sepos said this region needs to find its biggest and best voice to reach potential travellers.
Stormy Lake Consulting is led by Philip Coppard, who owns a home in Nanoose Bay. they have worked with tourism associations across Western Canada. the review of the OTA area is expected to last a few months.