The lack of quality content for meeting planners on almost all U.S. destination marketing websites is dire, with an equally dismal user interface in most cases.

Finally there’s a template for the tourism industry to follow with the new Meet Los Angeles portal. It’s not perfect, but it clearly shows the direction that tourism bureau websites are moving toward to engage next generation meeting planners and attendees.

MeetLA.com, which redirects to a URL extension of the brand.com website, is a stacked, fully mobile-friendly digital platform leading off with a full-width destination video at the top. Below that, the different sections include: Meeting services, convention center information, a venue search page, and meetings-specific blog posts.

“This website is our main communication tool with consumers and we’ve put a lot of money into the consumer site and won a lot of awards,” says Darren Green, senior VP of sales at the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. “So we said let’s shift our focus to the meeting planner, but with the full understanding that what they look for is different than the leisure traveler or the corporate traveler. Meet LA is reintroducing L.A. to the meeting planner.”

Green says the most interesting tech component is the Find A Venue tool, which presently appears only on the desktop site.

To begin, there’s a series of venue filters to determine preferred location, space capacity and attendee capacity. The search results then populate both a listing section on the left side of the page and a Google Map on the right side. It’s simple and easy to use, and it provides just enough functionality to narrow the search parameters without the user experience becoming wonky or confusing.

L.A. Storyselling

A big part of the reason why destination marketing organizations have been so recalcitrant toward planners when it comes to creating meetings-specific content is because they don’t believe it works.

Countless times, DMO reps have told us that the priority for selling their destination for meetings and events is getting sales boots on the ground to meet face-to-face with planners. Just one month ago, a CMO at a major first-tier U.S. bureau suggested to Skift, “I think planners are too smart for that. They’re not really likely to be swayed by website content promoting our city.”

We asked Green to comment on that. He responded:

We look at this as what we call ‘storyselling,’ and the reason why those stories resonate is because they personalize a destination like L.A. for meeting planners. We have this general perception of glitz and glamour, but there’s a diversity in our community, not just ethnically but economically. There’s a lot of things about L.A. that planners need to be educated on because the city is always evolving.

The other thing we’re finding, especially with millennials, they want something that’s experiential. They want something that they can touch and feel, and more importantly, feel part of. And those stories really help humanize the city and draw an emotional connection with planners beyond dates, rates and space.

MeetLA.com is designed so that the latest blog posts appear next to the main content in each section of the website, except for the Find A Venue page. Presently, the same blog posts appear in each section, but it might be better to tag posts relevant to each section’s theme.

For example, the Convention Center section could feature content highlighting creative venue options and unique meeting design strategies around the city. Then the Meeting Services section could have more news-oriented content about promotions and new developments at the bureau and destination partners.

Also, now that Los Angeles has its flashy new meetings portal, this would be a propitious time to crank up the quantity and quality of content to match the industry-leading digital framework.

There are no social media links on the desktop site, but there are on the mobile version. Green said those will be added. Meet Los Angeles has meetings-dedicated Twitter and Facebook platforms.

Exploring Los Angeles

Los Angeles can be a confusing destination for planners because there are so many different municipalities scattered across a wide geographical expanse.

“When you look at how spread out Los Angeles is as a city and our horizontal landscape, we’ve got 97,000 hotel rooms throughout L.A. County,” says Green. “And some people confuse us with Anaheim or Orange County, so we really have to tailor the message for Los Angeles and make it easy for customers to find what they want.”

To assist planners with getting their bearings to begin their search, there’s a Regions of L.A. link in the footer, which we didn’t see until after exploring the site multiple times. Instead, there’s room to move that page into a section of the MeetLA.com homepage, which would also then provide a cool dedicated space for all kinds of local neighborhood content.

The Regions of L.A. page breaks down the different municipalities into 10 sub-regions, ranging from Westside to West Hollywood, and each one provides links to fact sheets, the venue finder, and region-specific vendors and suppliers.

The top-level DiscoverLosAngeles.com homepage also introduces all of the different L.A. communities via a prominent Neighborhood section that planners can easily access as well.

“That’s an important aspect of the new website, because we wanted to help planners explore the different neighborhoods better,” explains Green. “If you want to go downtown, I mean, you’ve got the Arts District, the Fashion District, Little Tokyo, Chinatown, etc., and all of that is just downtown. So this helps planners dive deeper into those specific areas that are best aligned with the purpose of their meeting.”

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Photo Credit: The new MeetLA.com homepage. LA Tourism & Convention Board