The hint of perfume on a lover’s skin. A whiff of petrichor as summer rains fall on hot earth. The fresh salinity of an ocean breeze.
Our sense of smell, and the association with memory, are indelibly linked in the brain, making the scents we perceive a powerful motivator of behaviour. And when it comes to hospitality the power of scent has steadily moved beyond aromatherapy oils in the spa to become a defining feature of the luxury experience.
Savvy hoteliers are constantly looking for opportunities to enhance the guest experience — and encourage a repeat visit — and the latest battleground is to be found in our nostrils.
Hotels have long used our sense of smell to improve the guest experience. What began as elaborate flower arrangements in the lobby has morphed into hotel’s developing their own signature scents, subtly and often subconsciously cementing a sense of place in our olfactory system.
Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain with more than 1.38-million rooms in 134 countries, has a signature scent for nearly half of its 30 brands. Of those, Westin is perhaps the most famous example with its White Tea fragrance; top notes of white tea, balanced by base notes of cedar and vanilla. The on-trend W Hotels brand isn’t far behind, greeting guests with Signature Citron No 5 redolent with jasmine and sandalwood.
Times Square Edition hotel in midtown Manhattan has a signature scent by French perfumer Le Labo, while Lorenzo Dante Ferro created the Amorvero Profumo to scent the elegant Hotel Hassler Roma in Italy.
While many upscale brands turn to established perfumers, an entire “scent marketing” industry has sprung up, with companies such as Air Aroma and 12.29 curating signature fragrances for brands with a physical footprint in retail and hospitality.
Sense of individuality
But don’t expect to find room sprays or diffuser sticks in every corner. Brands that take scent seriously use a process of cold air diffusion; nebulising the fragrant oil into a fine mist distributed through the building’s ventilation system in carefully calibrated volumes.
While some global brands aim to welcome guest with a familiar scent across all their hotels, sparking a sense of security, others stamp a sense of individuality on the property.
Though Radisson is a global brand, its local Radisson Blu hotels each have their own scent.
“Our fragrance is a blend of sage, grapefruit intertwined with hints of bergamot and tangerine, there is an invigorating heart of this fragrance freshened with nuances of sea salt and minerals, and finally it is all smoothed by a base of musk, amber and cedarwood,” explains Shaun Wheeler, GM of Radisson Blu Hotel Sandton, which worked with SOH Collection to create its signature scent.
“We hoped to evoke a favourable subconscious reaction that helps reinforce positive brand associations, further guest satisfaction and encourage loyalty and brand awareness.”
In Morocco, the Radisson Blu Hotel Marrakesh Carre Eden took a different approach. Here guests find a flower boutique in the lobby, with a profusion of roses scenting the air and honouring the site’s original role as a flower market.
Hoteliers pay particular attention to ensuring there is alignment between the personality of the hotel and the nature of the signature scent, often referencing the surrounding landscape.
When Sylvie Ganter, founder of Atelier Cologne in Paris, was tasked with creating a signature scent for the Majestic Hotel in Barcelona, she immersed herself in the history and ambience of the property, while also looking to anchor the scent to a physical space.
In the Musc Imperial signature scent she created, salty seaside notes to reference the Mediterranean came from fig leaf, while the clary sage brought a musky note in line with the subtle masculinity of the property. Ernest Hemingway was, after all, a longtime resident here.
On the northeast coast of Mauritius, Constance Belle Mare has been defined by the Essence Ambiance for more than 25 years, redolent with the aromas of a tropical island; vanilla, patchouli, ylang-ylang and frangipani.
“As soon as our guests enter the resort, it evokes a feeling of wellness that is a quintessential part of being on holiday,” explains Ehad Bhaukaurally, PR & sales manager for the resort. “This signature scent, diffused across the public areas, stays in the memories of our guests even after their departure.”
Or even longer if they stop past the gift shop, where the essential oil is for sale to guests to use in diffusers and burners at home.
Scents often become so synonymous with the brand, and sought-after by guests, that signature scents can be bought as room diffusers, candles and room spray, turning your own home into a five-star hideaway. In a sense.