The head of Visit Cornwall said he regrets that plans to drop the words “England” and “county” from its promotional literature have been misinterpreted as politically motivated.
The tourism board boss Malcolm Bell sent out an internal memo to staff asking them to drop the references in favour of "region" or simply the name Cornwall itself.
Mr Bell said the area ought to stand out from the rest of the country in an effort to attract tourism.
He forwarded the memo to an individual outside the company to explain the board’s position, and it later appeared on Facebook.
Speaking to This is Cornwall, Mr Bell said: “We are not denying we are a county. We just think it would be good to big up Cornwall. It’s not a denial of Englishness.
“We are just standing up for Cornwall being Cornwall. In Europe that works very well. The fact it’s a county is relevant, but we are just trying to say Cornwall is different.”
He added: “We have not banned the use of the word ‘England’. I think it has been misinterpreted. We have said we would drop the word ‘county’ because it does not really add much.”
The tourism chief explained the decision was based on a visitors’ survey carried out in 2011, and insisted it was not politically motivated: “We tested the water to see whether it was an advantage or disadvantage to play more on our unique history,” he said.
“We asked ‘Are you aware of the Cornish language?’, to which 75% said they were. Of those, 67% said they thought it was a positive thing, and of them half would be interested in understanding how place names related to the language.
“We also asked ‘Are you aware of Cornish culture?’, to which 58% said yes. Of those, 69% said they would like to know more.
“So this demonstrated that Cornish connections were actually an asset, so being ‘English but not English’ was an asset. We cannot turn around and say ‘we are part of England but not’ – that doesn’t make marketing sense. This is subtle marketing.”
Some have interpreted the move as a nod to Cornish nationalists, and Visit Cornwall has been inundated with calls about the move. But Mr Bell said: “If I had known I would have to write an explanation I would have taken more care over the email.
“I do regret that people are reading this the wrong way, but it’s difficult in an electronic world to be different.
“It was not from some personal or political agenda, it came from the logic of our evidence.”
He added: “People when they are on holiday want to be somewhere different. We have got things that make us unique from other counties. It makes sense to work on that cultural aspect.”
Mr Bell continued: “We don’t use ‘county’ much because that’s a term associated with Irish places, for example County Antrim. We can get people confused.”
Dick Cole, the leader of Mebyon Kernow, the Party for Cornwall, said: “We are pleased because this is a positive way of acknowledging Cornwall’s distinctiveness.
“We are pleased that people have started to recognise Cornwall’s distinctiveness more and more, and realise they must promote it.
“I think it’s a positive occurrence. Isn’t it better to promote Cornwall as a distinctive Celtic entity than as just part of England?”
People have taken to Twitter to discuss the news. User @lizzylovesart wrote: “Bother! Will I have to get a visa to visit my mum and dad in Cornwall?”
Meanwhile @NoshableAdam asked in response to the news: “One step closer to independence?”
And @DavyPaul tweeted: “Cornwall is not a 'county' and it is not England, any more than Scotland or Wales (or Monmouthshire ;^) ) Frequent Visitor!”