Scent of a Hotel

By L. Aruna Dhir

The trend of adopting a signature scent is not as new as we may think. Perhaps because hotels have to be enticing enough to have guests really wish to visit them and choose them over another, there must be facets that are distinguishing. Also, hotels are really an experience-based industry; hence they must be able to ensnare all the five senses of the guest, smell being no less important.

Tycoon Steve Wynn set the tradition, as early as 1990, for casinos by using the vents at The Mirage to release a scent. Today, the Wynn Las Vegas boasts its very own olfactory logo in Asian Rain.
Hotel literature has it that, The Westin was the first major hotel brand to globally announce a signature scent for its hotels back in 2005.

Fragrance Experts Are the Secret

It is not uncommon to see hotels contract well-known fragrance experts, perfume inventers and perfumers to develop bespoke house fragrances. La Mamounia in Marrakech and Hotel Costes in Paris have employed celebrity noses to do a bit of sniffing for them. “Here at La Mamounia the unique fragrance has been developed by Olivia Giacobetti. It is an intriguing mix of dates, rose and cedar that rises up to define the essence of the legendary hotel almost seraphically, “offers Pierre Jochem, the General Manager.

Le Meridian appointed Le Labo, a New York based boutique perfumer to develop an exclusive woody, leathery note for their hotels. Le Labo was also commissioned by the legendary hotelier, Ian Schrager, to develop a unique scent for New York located Gramercy Park Hotel.

Rare Scents and Quality Ecological Products

The more chic and tony the hotel, the more exclusive is the smell it will choose to adopt as its own. While Vanilla, citrus, fig and green tea notes are usually preferred, the more different and hard to find or place your scent, the more it becomes sought after and remembered.

“At J Brand, smell, the most evocative of the senses, is a vital part of the experience. We are commissioning one of Asia’s most famous and insightful “nez” to develop a customised scent crafted from 100% essential oils. With an exceptional range of purely natural products and highly developed room scenting technology, we are creating the optimal scent experience for our spaces. All of the essential oils will be generated using environmentally friendly plants and therefore meet the growing need of people for purity. The high quality ecological products also represent the highest levels of sustainability,” Timur Senturk, the erstwhile Managing Director, J Hotel Shanghai Tower had revealed to me when he was with J, underlining his Company’s ‘responsible hoteliering’ philosophy.

The olfactory onslaught, delivered through the hotel’s heating and cooling systems, pretty aroma lamps, tactfully placed atomizers or ingeniously built in lighting diffusers, is indeed a special touch that has a decisively lingering presence on the guest’s mind in the most subliminal way. 

Simon Harrop, the CEO of UK based Brand Sense Agency, champions the relevance of signature scents in hotels. He gives a time-tested example from the sister travel business when he shares, “Singapore Airlines has a branded scent used in all of its planes, a light sweet scent like pure steam from fresh rice.”  He tells us that scent branding has been used in the travel industry since the mid-1970s. “If you’re booking a flight with SQ, you’ll find it that much harder to go with the competition because the Singapore scent builds the brand in the limbic system,” emphasises Harrop.

Signature Scents for Sale

Some hotels are milking this already purposeful branding opportunity for larger gain and effect. Like The Plaza, there are others that are bottling up their signature scents and letting the guests buy the vials, sprayers or candles for later use.

Hotel Vermont in Burlington, Vt. enamours its guests with a heady mix of cedar wood and lavender in its lobby along with a signature linen mist – both of which have been developed in consultation with established aroma therapist Leyla Bringas of Lunaroma. As a first, Hotel Vermont also presents a unique aromatherapy menu for its guests to choose from, but more on that later.    

Patrick Hen, in his Study “Emotional Brand management using Scent: the Effect of Scent on the Perception and Rating of Brands”, noted that “a scent which is suitable for the product is seen as fostering trust.”

Remember while the physical experience will become a part of your memory, the smell will get into your subconscious and surface at all those unexpected moments taking you into an effervescent trip of time travel. Scent plays a major part in not only being an instant mood up-lifter but also being a great paired associate and memory mnemonic.   

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