Ever wonder why your hotel smells so good? A signature scent adds to guest experiences

We may take photos endlessly, look forward to devouring meals and linger over textiles, but what we smell when we travel has a significant impact on not only how we experience a destination, but how we remember it. As such, a number of players in the travel industry are creating proprietary fragrances that are not only nice to smell, but become integral to the travel experience.

“Our sense of smell is our most powerful sense we possess,” explains Sue Phillips, scent expert and head of Scenterprises, a Manhattan-based custom perfumery. “It triggers memories and recall more than any of our other senses, which is why many five-star hotels are expanding fragrance initiatives as a way to ‘scent brand’ their properties.”

Phillips says that woodsy fragrances appeal to both men and women because the creamy, warm notes remind visitors of the comfort of home. But increasingly, the trend is to custom tailor the scent to match the hotel’s demographic.

ScentAir is one of the top consulting companies in the field and has worked with MGM Resorts International properties, including Mandalay Bay, for a number of years to provide custom fragrances. 

“ScentAir worked closely the Mandalay Bay team to create their signature Coconut Spice, a scent that fit the highly thematic brand experience,” explains Edward Burke, vice president of customer strategy and communications. Burke says that a number of different tropical notes and blends, including passionfruit and frangipani were presented before settling on the current one that wafts through the resort.

“Let’s face it, our mood when we arrive to hotels is often shaped by the hours or days of travel that led up to that moment,” Burke says. “So it is critical for a hotel operator to deliver a great first impression.  Since our sense of smell is our most powerful sense in terms of emotion and memory, you are more likely to have a more pleasant experience and to remember it longer and more vividly with the right scent attached.”

In some instances, a property’s signature scent is a testament to its surroundings. In Croatia, Hidden House, a bed and breakfast on the ultra-popular island of Hvar, uses the island’s famed lavender to scent every suite in its luxury guesthouse. In Bulgaria, nearly every hotel uses the country’s acclaimed rose petals and rose water for scenting.

But developing a scent can also take a more scientific route. ScentAir creates signature aromas from a combination of naturally derived and engineered materials. “We work with many of the same raw materials that a perfumer would use and we go through a very similar design process,” Burke says.

In most cases, the scent is delivered to a hotel lobby or common space via a diffusion system installed somewhere in the space that can be controlled for intensity. Some hotels are starting to bottle their scents so guests can enjoy them at home.

The Ritz Paris first developed its hypnotic, amber-based scent 20 years ago. A spokesperson for the Ritz said that when the hotel recently re-opened after lengthy renovations, people commented en masse that they were extremely happy to smell the fragrance again. This year, for the first time, fans can purchase the home fragrance via the hotel’s website. Prior to that time, it was only available at the hotel’s on-site concept store.

For those who are very sensitive to scent, calling ahead to learn about the types and options for fragrances may be a consideration. For the rest, an adventure awaits in the ways in which this sensual addition will colour their journeys. 

Additional reporting by Jess Simpson

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