Scent of a Hotel

By L. Aruna Dhir

Tell me frankly, what is the first thing that strikes you when you enter the precincts of a luscious hotel? Is it the imposing Baccarat Chandelier with ear drop crystals reflecting a desire and a promise for luxe living? Or is it the ever-smiling staff, starched in shape and fine-tuned to deliver that impeccable service? 

Let me reveal a secret. Even before your eyes have set a target for appreciation or a trained hand has automatically extended to welcome you into the fold of the star hotel, it is the smell that fills you up with a superlatively nice, inviting, warm, nostalgic or breathtaking feeling, as the case may be. The signature scent of a hotel is such a subtle yet significant branding exercise in a hotel’s scheme of things that the management mandarins spend precious hours and pretty pennies in deciding what should define their property.

A luxury brand I used to work for advanced f r o m Citronella and Mandarin essential oils to a fragrance f r o m the house of Fragonard that came to be identified with the hotel and became a conversation starter with the local and international guests.

Religious rituals and incense have an age-old, time preserved marriage and several Indian regional hotels welcome Gods and guests with an overpowering gust of incense usually burned up in multiples. If you are visiting a traditional hotel in South India, the choice of the burning incense or the lack thereof will tell you f r o m a distance what kind of establishment you are about to step into. Same holds true for closer-to-home-base hotels in Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle-East, even the Caribbean that cling on to their region-intense aromas, almost as a trademark. However, if you move up the profile ladder, you will find more discerning brands choosing spiffier scents to establish their presence in the space they inhabit. 

I remember getting my senses massaged by the bespoke smell that seemed to envelope the lobby of The Pierre in New York and travelled deep into the crevices of my suite. I also remember getting my head sent into a spin by the overwhelming smell of freshly baked Brioche that seemed to be the resident scent of Hotel Tivoli Etoile off the Arc de Triomphe in the heart of Paris.

Several top of the line hotel chains worldwide have developed a signature scent that spells out the uniqueness of their brand and as a Unique Impressionistic Proposition, helps them stand out f r o m the competition. Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts welcome guests with a ginger-and-bergamot-infused room fragrance called Essence of Shangri-La that is held consistently across the chain. 

Starwood Hotels & Resorts have used signature smell as an intra-brand profiling strategy. Hence, if Bling tells your nose that you will be staying at their uber-luxury Brand ‘W’, then warmth-inducing cinnamon apple pie aroma at the Four Points assures you that you are in the cradle of comfort. 

Omni Hotels & Resorts have earmarked a space-wise smell for their hotels. So, if you are in the lobby then lemongrass greets you; their Coffee shops are redolent with the aroma of cookies, while the poolside is suffused with a refreshing coconut-ty trail. 

The famed Le Bristol Paris is ambrosially scented with, what else, its namesake fragrance that is reminiscent of the 85 year-old hotel’s Parisian gardens with cut grass, freesia, lily of the valley and white rose.

The Park Hyatts have zeroed on a distinctive fragrance for their variously located properties as an individual signature – so, if it is sandalwood for Park Hyatt Paris then PH Washington has chosen patchouli, violet and rose. The swanky and stylish PH Milan has roped in the expertise of famous perfumer, Laura Tonatto, to develop a special scent which is a deft and delicate mix of amber, vanilla extract, orange blossom and musk.

The Indian behemoth, Oberoi Hotels & Resorts uses Jasmine for the overriding whiff that welcomes its guests f r o m the time guests are offered hot and cold towels in the hotel limousine through the time they stay in the luxurious havens of the Group.
Four Seasons’ George V in Paris uses “Ambre du Nepal.” Raffles, Singapore, that grand leader of the pack on numerable counts, is clouded under the ethereal waft of Frangipani developed by Fragonard. 

For the guests, it is a great reminiscing of a fantastic hotel stay or vacation; for the hotels it is one of the finest ways to stay on top-of-the-mind of their guests in the nicest and most non-intrusive way possible.

The author is a Hospitality & Feature Writer and Columnist for some of the world’s highest ranked Hospitality publications. Her industry writings are used as references in case studies and hotel schools. She is a recognised and national-poll winning Corporate Communications specialist, PR Strategist and Writer. A seasoned hotelier, she loves to present hospitality industry watch, insights, case studies and analysis to her ever-increasing base of global readership. She has over two decades of experience in Hospitality Communications and Brand Management and has worked with some of the best global hotel companies - The Imperial New Delhi, The Oberoi, New Delhi, Hyatt Regency Delhi. Aruna was appointed to the Board of Association of Emerging Leaders Dialogues (AELD), as the second Indian representative and the only woman leader f r o m India.

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