Hotels with a good scent that matches the vibe of the property can have an advantage in branding and marketing.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Guests will comment on the amazing view that a beachfront resort offers. Or, they will rave to their friends about the delectable food that a hotel’s celebrity chef whipped up for dinner. But, you often don’t hear guests talking about a hotel’s special scent—unless, maybe, it’s bad.
Yet, hotels are constantly changing their scents, and coming up with new ways to use fragrance to enhance travelers’ stays. From tailoring scents to the demographics of their guests to subtly wafting seasonal smells into lobby air ducts during the holidays, scent marketing is now an active behind-the-scenes player in creating guest experiences at hotels.
“Scent is often an overlooked piece of guests’ sensory experience,” said Ben Thiele, GM of the 97-room Kimpton Palladian Hotel in Seattle, which partnered with a local vendor to create two custom scents.
Scents often are diffused through a hotel’s central heating and cooling system, and released into the public spaces—such as the lobby. These fragrances can be controlled and delivered to specific, desired areas for maximum effect. The idea is to use scent to set a mood that will leave a lasting impression on guests.
An academic study published online in the International Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Administration in September 2017 found that happiness and delight were the most dominant emotions evoked by the hotel scent used in the research. Those emotions were positively associated with the respondents’ future intentions to visit the hotel again. The study also found that the preferred locations to diffuse ambient fragrances are in the hotel lobby, restrooms and corridors. However, properties should not diffuse scents in guestrooms, meeting spaces or food and beverage outlets, the research concluded.
Guest profile and vibe
The signature scents, Galleon and Belle Epoque, at the historic 1910 Kimpton Palladian hotel were inspired by the “guest profile and vibe of the property,” Thiele said, adding that gender appeal wasn’t a factor.
“We opted for scents like sage, fig, vanilla, honeysuckle and coffee that weren’t overtly floral or woodsy,” he said.
The scents have been incorporated into bath salts, which were a natural fit given the number of spa suites in the hotel, and also diffusers, which have the benefit of being visual, easily providing scent and table décor for meeting and public spaces, he said.
Each of the six properties at Denihan Hospitality has its own scent, and those have been developed with guest profiles in mind, said Gul Turkmenoglu, regional VP of operations. Hotels under Denihan also sought guest feedback on the signature scents, she said.
These signature scents are separate and distinct from those in guest bathrooms, where the focus is on freshness, she said.
“You want to have scents help create a mood for each hotel, but you have to be careful and don’t want them to be too overpowering,” she said.
Using scents in hotels is a “sophisticated discipline,” said Bill Coan, president, principal and CEO of Orlando, Florida-based ITEC Entertainment Resorts, which designs themed resorts worldwide. He said his ITEC properties can change scents from season to season.
“You have the ability to help create a mood, for instance, by having a special scent in a resort at Christmas time,” Coan said. “This makes guests feel good.”
The Dean Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island, had a signature scent created as “a subtle and timeless homage to Rhode Island and the Ocean State Heritage,” said Aarin Clemons, GM of the 52-room property. “We create guest experiences around our guest profiles.”
To create a more subtle and visually appropriate scent program, The Dean Hotel prefers to use candles, Clemons said.
As for what’s popular in hotel scents, Turkmenoglu said lemongrass was very “in” for the past five to six years, but now more masculine fragrances are in fashion. And, there are regional trends—with summery scents popular on the west coast, and crisp alpine scents at mountain resorts, Clemons noted.
“Each brand and property flocks to scents which tie into its narrative in some way. It’s how acutely these scents and their use communicate the brand story and add positively to the lasting memory that set them each apart,” Clemons said.