The 12 Best Aromas For Scenting Hotels & Hospitality Brands

Fragrance wields power and opens purses and the hotel industry knows it. Many hoteliers are fast commissioning signature scents for their lobbies, restaurants and guest rooms in the hope it will bring visitors back to renew their experiences. Smell is connected to the areas of the brain that process emotion and memory and is the only one of the five senses that is fully developed at birth.

Scent marketing in the hotel industry.

Creating scent memories is a delicate, complex and difficult art, as these selected wisps of recall become permanent, indelible layers that build emotional loyalty to a favored place. Scent branders for hotels specifically, have to consider such factors as: architectural design of the space; colors and textures and whether or not doors and windows will be open or closed which might require the chosen scent to blend with outside aromas.

In the words of Caroline Fabrigas, chief executive officer of Scent Marketing: “A good scent enhances the wood that you’re standing on, the stone on the wall. It’s almost as if the environment is breathing with you. It becomes intrinsic to the space.”

Hotel scent branders must also keep in mind the mood they want to convey in their guest rooms. Should the scent be energizing or calming with wisps of peppermint? Would it be more successful if it blended comfort with quiet sexiness or playful and flirty with almond-like qualities? Or should the scent contain some of one aspect, some of another, or all of the above? Ultimately, hotel managers would love to hear their guests say upon leaving: “We have to return because we didn’t get a chance to see your fine city. In fact, we barely left our room!”

How does the sense of smell play into hotel guest satisfaction?

Some experts in the scenting field develop a fragrance success template for hotel scenting with the goal of making the hotels signature scent smell like the ideal version of their location. This translates into citrus aromas which are refreshing, in South Florida, and woodsy aromas which are soothing and relaxing, at a Colorado ski resort.

Many scenting experts support this idea of pairing scents familiar to a hotel’s specific region with a signature scent. For example, in the United States, the Ritz-Carlton Washington celebrates the city’s famous cherry blossoms in its signature fragrance.  According to Farah Abassi, “People from India tend to have a preference for sandalwood based scents as it is used in Hindu temples for scenting. Many of the Arab countries tend to prefer a stronger and/or spicier type of scent…”

Scent branding firm, 12.29, founded by sisters Dawn and Samantha Goldworm, claim that after three months, a person can recall a smell with 65 percent accuracy, in contrast to only 50 percent of visuals. This firm has worked with many established luxury brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Thompson Hotels. Their business strategy involves extensive questioning about the message the particular brand or hotel is trying to convey and to whom. The concept of audience is vital to any scent marketing strategy.

According to Samantha Goldworm of 12.29: “Each group would have very specific olfactory preferences and ways that they understand scent based on their childhood baby products, their food. Consequently, how each group processes scent—and more important, what might appeal to their olfactory sense, is wildly different.”

The environments vary throughout hotels, from lobbies to spas to casinos. According to branding experts from Mandarin Oriental, hotel guests are more likely to remember what they smell much more intensely than what they see or hear. Signature scents pumped through hotel air vents create a sensory and memorable experience for guests. Things can go wrong; poor dispersal of a scent, space design problems and mismatched targeting (American style scent profile in a Japanese hotel, for example) can create strong negative impressions. But when hotels get it right, the guest experience becomes emotional and enduring.

Some scent branding industry facts and statistics.

According to Bloomberg, in 2015, hotels spent an estimated $300 million in the scent-branding industry. Experts claim the hotel scent branding industry is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 3.6% from 2015 to 2020. Aroma branding is not new, but it is a marketing investment that has grown so rapidly that hoteliers offer signature scents from the day they open to the public.

Last year, Rachel Herz of Brown University, an expert in scent and psychology, told Travel & Leisure Magazine that within a decade, hotel scent marketing is slated to become a $1 billion industry. This includes spillover revenue gleaned from guests seeking to take their feelings and the scent home by purchasing pricey (about $40-$90 each) scented candles and other items. One clever hotel scent marketer at New York’s Quin Hotel created classy note-cards designed by Daniel Egneus that contain invisible capsules, which release the signature scent as you write on them.

The twelve most popular hotel scents.

The following hotel scents have been deemed among the most popular in the industry. Most have been adapted for use in premier hotels throughout the world.

  • Green Tea and Lemongrass – The faintly sweet, refreshing and herbal qualities of green tea blend with tangy lemongrass to create a sparkling citrus top note of lemon, orange, bergamot and mandarin with middle notes of rose, jasmine and wood. Evoking memories of  warm, starry nights, sparkling emerald waters and dazzling sunsets, this scent enhances the environment for hotels situated in warmer climates such as Florida, and other island, tropical locations.
  • White Tea and Thyme – This is a crisp and clean fragrance with strong herbal notes subtly softened by white tea mixed with floral heart of jasmine and rose petals and sage. Balanced with the addition of thyme, woodsy, cedar musky notes complete the scent. This aroma would appeal to international hotels, particularly those catering to Asian guests. The woodsy quality of the scent relates directly to the burning of incense, which is a vital aspect of Asian cultural history.
  • Green Bamboo – The fresh sparkling, dewy and clean notes of green bamboo fare well in hotels because clean indicates safety and security. This complex fragrance contains a middle note of wild grasses, jasmine petals and exotic touches of orange blossom and white orchid. The finishing note of white musk and green bamboo appeals to both males and females and would do well in hotel lobbies and restaurants.
  • Utopia – Launched in 2014, this is a fairly new warm, spicy and citrus aroma for men.  It is a complex scent comprised of a white flower bouquet that is musky, warm and spicy. This fragrance contains delicate fruity and citrus accents of grapefruit, lemon and apple followed by notes of rose, jasmine, tuberose, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley and gardenia. Base notes contain amber and musky driftwood. This scent would be ideal in lobbies leading to gallery and arcade hotel shops featuring men’s apparel and accessories.
  • White Tea and Fig – This is the signature scent of the new Bernic Hotel in midtown Manhattan. Clean, citrusy and fruity, this fragrance opens with a fruity top note of fig. Middle notes include: white tea bud, jasmine and rose. Cedar, creamy amber and musk comprise the base notes that complete the scent. This exotic sophisticated blend is soothing and luxurious and does very well in newer edifices because it is fresh and clean. It is psychologically difficult to replicate a ‘homely, lived-in feel’ in a building with minimal furniture or decoration. This complex yet subtle scent offers the faintest whisper of white tea and the Orient.
  • Fresh Cotton – Cotton is a mild scent with powerful nostalgic implications. We have only to stop for a moment and visualize in our mind’s eye freshly washed laundry blowing in the breeze on a warm spring day. Cotton by itself is bland, but when combined with an ozonic citrus-based top note, a white flower heart and a warm woodsy base-note, fresh cotton becomes a multi-layered, pure and clean scent.
  • Fresh Rain – Hotels love this fragrance because fresh rain is the cleanest and most delicate of aromas. Psychologically, it has the impact of a fresh new start; washing the bad away and making everything clean and new again. The aroma is sweet, fresh, floral and earthy due to the release and mixture of plant oils from the soil, bacterial spores and ozone. Traces of citrus and newly-mown hay; middle notes of lavender, rose, sage and base-notes of musk and cedar finish this fragrance, which has a calming effect and promotes contemplation and relaxation.
  • Ocean – The complex, intoxicating scent of the ocean is like no other anywhere in the world. It is comprised of seaweed, marine life and natural brine, which sails on the wings of cool breezes on warm summer days and nights. Although the scent may differ somewhat from ocean to ocean depending on minerals and elements, the overall fragrance of the sea is unmistakable and universal. This scent opens with an ozonic sea-spray and citrus followed by middle notes of salty and oceanic green. It completes with a base note of mossy sea musk. This scent is ideal for resorts and hotels situated along beaches and waterfronts.
  • Scentsational – This sultry, rich scent has top notes of pomegranate, pear, mandarin and green palm. Coconut and geranium middle notes evoke lush tropical settings and the base note of amber, cedar, musky driftwood and mossy green lend a masculine flavor to surroundings.
  • Green Tea and Sage – The fragrance of green tea, a very intimate element in Japanese art and culture, is very well known for its sterilizing properties and soothing qualities. In this blend, the top note of citron, lime and orange is coupled with the middle note of rose, honeysuckle and geranium and base note of warm, aromatic and woody sage. The refreshing and clean resulting scent is very popular in Asia and international hotels all over the world featuring Japanese-inspired décor and cuisine.
  • Green Tea and Aloe – A zesty clean scent with top notes of casaba melon, citrus, and green aloe are followed by a middle note of lily-of-the-valley, night blooming jasmine, gardenia and white rose. The base note is green tea and woody. The fragrance of green tea, being so quintessentially Japanese, is familiar and well loved. It is described as faintly sweet scent, invigorating and refreshing. The aloe, derived from the Arabic word, Alloeh, which means “bitter and shiny substance,” adds a watery element to the fragrance. This scent would fare well in hotels and resorts featuring spas and saunas and such.

In summation, the power of a hotel signature scent is well worth its cost.  Aroma branding experts customize any given space according to its specific and unique needs. They understand and respect the almost mystical effect the proper scent can have on consumer mood and emotional loyalty.

Final thoughts about hotels, but not necessarily fragrances:

“There was a girl knocking on my hotel room door all night! Finally, I let her out.” Henny Youngman

Interested in creating a signature scent for your hotel or hospitality brand? Reach out to one of our scenting strategists for more information on scent marketing or our commercial air freshener systems.


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