For the first time, conference planners can now explore a wide range of event venues throughout a city in virtual reality and 360-degree video to help them design citywide events.

Meet L.A., which is part of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, launched the Virtual Discovery L.A. portal last week with more than 50 group spaces and gathering places showcased in immersive video.

Planners can now navigate digitally through many of L.A.’s iconic sites such as L.A. LIVE, Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Getty, and Warner Brothers Studio, and there are a couple dozen VR/360 videos showing all of the function spaces inside L.A. Convention Center.

The platform also takes viewers on neighborhood tours to scope out the graffiti murals in the Arts District, outdoor cafes in Hollywood Farmer’s Market, and the Tiffany store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, among others.

Meet L.A.’s virtual reality experience was developed by Xplorit, which has produced an extensive range of leisure and meetings-themed VR content for different tourism destinations and hotels over the last few years. The Xplorit component builds on the success of the all-new Meet L.A. website that launched last year, designed primarily to differentiate the city’s many individual neighborhoods.

According to Darren Green, senior VP of sales at Meet L.A., the Virtual Discovery L.A. portal helps planners further orient themselves in the sprawling metropolis, so they can better understand where all of the different communities and major venues are situated in relation to each other.

“Our goal was to make L.A. a little more reachable where you can get your arms around it,” said Green. “We listened to our customer advisory board about different tools that they’d like to see, and what would make their lives easier. They constantly came back that L.A. is so big that, ‘I don’t know where to start.’ So we took that to our board of directors and said we’d like to launch this platform just so planners can get comfortable with our city.”

The Xplorit platform features a navigation bar on the left that includes additional content to provide further context around the venue search process as planners move through the portal. They can click on any of Los Angeles Tourism’s neighborhood and hotel videos that match the corresponding VR/360 content, as well as Google Maps with pins highlighting each venue.

Both the videos and the maps pop up in the upper right corner for simultaneous viewing while planners navigate through the site.

There’s a lot going on inside the Virtual Discovery L.A. framework, so it takes some time figuring out how to get around the city and navigate to where you want to go. Also, the portal is relatively quick considering the video file loads, but planners will need to dedicate extended periods of time to take full advantage of the site.

Green wouldn’t divulge the cost of the Xplorit initiative except to say that it was a year in development. Eventually, as VR/360 technology improves and the price to purchase it drops, all major tourism bureaus will have some type of similar virtual experience.

The beauty of this is that it’s scalable. Green told us that Meet L.A. plans to add more venues in the coming year to drive exposure to more local neighborhoods, and we surmise that it won’t be long before the platform starts displaying any number of different sponsor vehicles for Meet. L.A. partners.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles' new VR meetings portal includes over 50 event venues, including the Walt Disney Concert Hall. IIP Photo Archive / Flickr