A tourist is likely to have heard of places like the Outer Banks of North Carolina or the Grand Canyon, but naming a nearby county or city might stump them.
Tell someone in California you’re from Gainesville, and their first thought might be the one in Florida, home of the Gators.
The people responsible for marketing Gainesville and Hall County to the rest of the world say it happens all the time.
But mention Lake Lanier, and it could ring a bell. The lake has been in the news because of the drought, and in better times, as the site of televised fishing tournaments.
For 16 years, the Gainesville-Hall County Convention and Visitors Bureau has been asking visitors to come to Gainesville.
The bureau has begun the process of changing its name to align its message with the area’s largest tourist attraction. The Gainesville Hall County Convention and Visitors Bureau would become the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"Over the past year, it has become obvious to stakeholders within the CVB’s organization that the situation presented by the national spotlight on our lake has opened many doors of promotional opportunity," said Kay Parks, chairman of the bureau’s board of directors. "Among those is the fact that while many potential visitors are not aware of our cities or our county by name, they have certainly heard of Lake Lanier and are generally aware of its geographic location."
The news was met warmly in some corners. "It’s fitting, considering that Lake Lanier is a $6 billion plus economic engine," said Shawn Davis, a spokesman for Gwinnett businessman Virgil Williams, who owns the lease on Lake Lanier Islands.
But in others, the reaction was tepid at best.
"I don’t think it matters all that much, as to what it is called," said Gainesville Councilwoman Ruth Bruner during a work session this week. "I don’t think it should be that (Lake Lanier)."
Mayor Myrtle Figueras said the name change harkens back to the time when county commissioners insisted that Hall County be made a part of the official name.
"It was a big deal to them (the county)," Figueras said.
Councilman George Wangemann said Lake Lanier goes beyond Gainesville and Hall County.
"The purpose is to promote Gainesville-Hall County and so, therefore, my personal recommendation is to leave it alone, keep it as it is," he said.
But CVB president Stacey Dickson said Thursday that the name change was almost a done deal. The bureau has reserved the corporate name Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau and is now preparing to go through the legal process of changing the name by issuing a news release Thursday that announced the name change publicly.
"The main attractor is the lake," Dickson said. "That will get people to click and from there, will teach them about Gainesville, Oakwood and Flowery Branch."
The CVB will retain rights to its old name, as well, Dickson said.