The West Coast’s airport will not be renamed because local leaders can’t agree on what else to call it.
The Long Beach Airport Advisory committee has been mulling over possible alternatives for roughly eight months, but officially scrapped the pursuit during their Feb. 1 meeting after it became clear a consensus wouldn’t be reached.
“None of us wanted to risk a divisive conversation. This was never intended to be divisive between communities,” Tofino mayor Josie Osborne told the Westerly News.
“When we realized we were at a bit of a stale mate, we thought, ‘Let’s not focus on this, let’s keep moving ahead. We all agree that Long Beach is fine enough and let’s just keep going.’”
The idea to change the airport’s name came from a marketing consultant the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District hired last year to increase awareness of the airport and expand its usage.
The consultant suggested a new name was needed because the West Coast’s Long Beach Airport is being confused with an airport of the same name in California, with the latter dominating web-searches and making the local one tough to find online.
The consultant offered a handful of new names for the committee to choose from: Tofino Regional Airport, Tofino/Ucluelet Regional Airport, Tofino/Wickaninnish Regional Airport and Tofino/Pacific Rim Regional Airport.
Airport Superintendent Mark Fortune submitted a report in October backing the Tofino Regional Airport moniker, but that name was loudly opposed by Ucluelet’s mayor Dianne St. Jacques and failed to gain traction.
Osborne said she was disappointed the committee couldn’t agree on a new name, but said the idea to increase the airport’s marketing remains at the forefront.
“I wasn’t surprised. Maybe I was just hopeful and a little naive. I was a little disappointed, but I’m okay with it,” she said. “What we’re going to do instead is use the existing name and work to increase the profile and awareness of the airport’s existence altogether…I never wanted this to be all about the name. This is about increasing the profile of the airport, branding it, making people more aware that it exists and getting more people to use.”
She noted the airport has never received a full-throttle marketing push and its high time for one to occur.
“The goal of the airport advisory committee is to increase traffic to the airport. Not necessarily to increase visitation altogether to the West Coast but to make people aware that they have choices beyond renting a car or taking the bus,” she said.
She added airport officials would work with Tourism Ucluelet and Tourism Tofino on creative campaigns.
“Our airport presents a different way for people to reach the West Coast and so for travellers that might be on a tighter time budget can use it and those who don’t enjoy driving can use it,” she said. “The airport’s biggest potential right now is in the tourism economy.”
She said that, while a new name was not chosen, the conversation around it was valuable.
“It’s always good to have these kinds of conversations because you learn what’s important to the committee members and other community members,” she said. “It got us talking a lot about the airport. It was good.”
She said discussions around a new name would not likely be picked up again in the near future.
“The recommendation is to keep the name the same for now…I wouldn’t expect it to come up in the next year or two,” she said. “Once it’s better known and used, I think, perhaps being a bit more creative and going out there to look at a new airport name with the public could be great.”