Meeting attendees visiting New Orleans have likely been to or at least heard of the French Quarter and Bourbon Street. But what about exploring the record shops on artsy Magazine Street or listening to some local funk music at the Maple Leaf on Oak Street? New Orleans certainly has more to offer groups than the typical, bead-covered French Quarter bars, which is why the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation (NOTMC) created the Follow Your NOLA website. It features interactive map-based experiences that introduce groups to the authentic flavor of New Orleans.
One of the most interesting things about the site is that visitors can explore premade itineraries created by national and local celebrities such as Emeril Lagasse, Anthony Bourdain and Drew Breeze, says Jeff Hinson, account supervisor fro 360i, the agency of record that helped NOTMC create the new website experience. An example of a character itinerary is the custom experience designed to bring Disney’s The Princess and the Frog movie to life. The itinerary, for instance, highlights places such as Café du Monde, St. Louis Cathedral, Steamboat Natchez and other real-life locations in New Orleans.
“The Follow Your NOLA campaign works with consumers on any level,” says Hinson. “While the reason for attendees to visit may be a business meeting, they still have stuff they want to discover outside of that event.”
The website also allows visitors to create their own custom experiences using the My NOLA Trip Planner. Meeting planners, for instance, can use the trip planner to customize a list of locations they want attendees to visit, which could be shared on the event website. Experient Inc., a Maritz organization, themed its entire August event around Follow Your NOLA, Hinson says. The organization took the same themes on the website — Follow Your Rhythm, for instance — to give people an idea of places to check out during their stay.
“We invited [the group] to show us how they followed their NOLA by using the hashtag #followyournola,” says Hinson. “For instance, one of the event offsites was at the National World War II museum, so we saw a lot of sharing there and around the French Quarter. We found that when we prompt people with a collage of images, they’re excited to capture them on their own and then kind of be our storyteller.”
Because New Orleans is a compact city, it’s easy for meeting planners to suggest an itinerary that features places within walking distance of the event’s host venue, while also allowing attendees to explore the city on their own.
“The site helps show other streets of interest to attendees who are trying to live like a local and get out of the context of downtown,” says Hinson. “We inspire them through the beautiful imagery on the website, while also helping them navigate to these destinations, where they start to develop an understanding of how easy it is to get to these new venues.”