The 12 Best Scents For Hotel Lobbies & Hospitality Brands

With our everyday lives being constantly bombarded with visual advertisements these days, whether it be through billboards, mobile ads or television, so many of us have shut down our optical intake. We’ve become numb to visual ads, but scent is a different matter.

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. It’s also not necessarily something we can turn off, nor do many of us want to. Statistics show that scent inspires, delights and soothes, especially if diffused in a proper, non-offending way. It’s not surprising then that scent has moved to the marketing forefront for many industries.

Further research shows that fragrance wields an enlightened olfactory power over a business’ bottom line, and the hotel industry knows it. With statistically-backed data detailing fragrance’s positive affect on consumer behavior, hoteliers are fast-commissioning unique, brand-defining scents diffused through professional air freshening systems for their lobbies, restaurants and guest rooms to further enhance their customer experiences.

But how do you choose the proper scent for a hotel experience? What scent evokes the proper mood, reflects your brand and doesn’t overpower? And what if you want to take that amazing hotel scent home with you and have it diffused throughout your residence?

This article delves into the growing business of hotel scent marketing, provides the 12 most popular scents gently wafting through the lobbies of hotels and hospitality brands today, and how hoteliers, scent marketers, suppliers or homeowners can transform interior environments with diffused scent.

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 lobbies as well as 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?

Whatever the blend, 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!” While scent may not have that level of subconscious sway, it is scientifically proven to encourage customers to linger longer, enhance purchasing behaviors, form bonds with brands and much more.

We recently wrote about the research behind the power of scent marketing, if you’d like to learn more!

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.

By way of 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…”

The concept of audience is vital to any scent marketing strategy, particularly in light of the fact that a person can recall a smell with 65 percent accuracy, in contrast to only 50 percent of visuals, but every person and group is different. It’s no wonder then that the business strategy of many scent marking companies involves extensive questioning about the message the particular brand or hotel is trying to convey and to whom.

According to Samantha Goldworm, a fragrancing expert, “Each person has 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.

The discerning level hoteliers put toward choosing scents for luxury boutique hotels raises the fragrant bar even higher, often utilizing more exotic scents such as Oudh, Tamboti Woods, Tonka and more.

All of that said, 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 best hotel lobby scents.

We’ve been creating scents and supplying scent diffusion systems to hoteliers and scent marketing suppliers for years, and with that comes a unique understanding of the scents that for the most part stand the test of time. The following hotel scents have been deemed among the most popular in the industry, most of which 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 our experience, the best hotel scents have a multifaceted job to do; they should make a statement about the brand they represent, and at the same time evoke a specific mood within the minds of guests the minute the walk into a hotel lobby or hospitality environment. They should also improve guest experiences, extend the time they linger, attract new customers, create heightened value perception, encourage repeat business and much more.

A tall order for sure, but with well over seven decades of experience in both scent creation as well as producing professional air freshener systems for any sized space, we’ve grown to understand and respect the almost mystical effect the proper scent can have on consumer mood and emotional loyalty.

If you’re a hotelier, a hotel manager, an air care supplier or distributor and you’d like to make a fresh, new aromatic impression with your clients or customers, speak directly with our scenting experts today! We also offer business opportunity options for anyone who would like to become a distributor of our products.

If you’d like to make your home or apartment smell like a hotel and order any of the above scents or a scent diffusing system, please visit our affiliate company, Ballard Air Fresheners to directly purchase the perfectly-sized air freshening system. Specifically, ask for the Aroma Beam dry scent diffuser or the Aroma Styler cold mist nebulizing diffuser — Alpha, Beta or Gamma, depending on the square footage of your home.

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


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