The five senses play an important role in designing a hotel, but scent is often one of the most overlooked elements. Sensory memory directly correlates with smell—something as small as smelling freshly cut grass or flowers can instantly transport one back to childhood or a forgotten memory. So, why is scent so often disregarded in hotel design?
Frédéric Jacques, co-founder and CEO of The Society of Scent, says that many hoteliers don’t understand the importance of scent in a hotel. The Society of Scent is partnering with Andaz Hotels by Hyatt to create custom scents for each of its hotels across the globe. Both the Society of Scent and Andaz Hotels weighed in on the process and importance of putting scent in hotels.
Creating a Scent
Jacques notes that creating a scent begins with understanding the history and culture of a surrounding area, and finding the authentic “scent story” that will correlate and resonate with guests. “Just as any other creation, it’s important to grab the story first because scent is going to bring a special mood and mindset to the sensory space of whoever is experiencing it,” he says.
Jacques and The Society of Scent team are traveling to every Andaz property to grab the story of both the location and the hotel, and exude that story in the scent. “We travel to each location to first get a sensory and intellectual immersion to understand what the place is about. If you don’t understand what the place is about, you’re going to create a scent that is not rooted in the story and culture of the place.” He adds, “It’s about representing what the space is about. That’s where the inspiration is initially.”
After identifying a certain scent, hotels can turn to technologies like scent diffusion. Jacques says creating a scent is more of an art than a science. “Scent creation is very much like cooking in the sense that it uses physical ingredients and products that are decoded by the human brain only after they have been physically captured by receptors in the nose.”
Considering All Factors
When designing a scent for a hotel, it’s important to not only consider the location and cultural importance of the area, but also where scent fits into the hotel. “Dedicate time and attention to understanding the cultural nuances within the communities where each property is located,” says Heather Geisler, vice president of global brands for Hyatt. “These custom scents will be developed pulling from a number of local inspirations, like essential oils, fragrances, spices, and fruits.”
The hotel environment must be taken into consideration—if the scent is diffused in the lobby where a restaurant is nearby, it should not be strong or bold enough to impact dining guests. Likeability needs to be considered, too. Jacques says, “You don’t want to be too invasive, so you don’t want to be too strong. You don’t want to be too pungent. You don’t want to be too sweet. You want something that feels good. You don’t want to create a scent that resembles any other scent.”
Diffusing the Scent
Once created, there are a number of ways that a hotel can project the scent, like candles and diffusers, according to Jacques, and even functional products like lip balm, according to Geisler. But each method of diffusion varies, and Jacques says, “There’s not only one way. Look at the place, take in all of the constraints, think about what you want to achieve in terms of final experience, and use all the different tools available. Diffusion is just one of them.”
“Scent for the sake of scent is dated, and we are going to see more and more customized experiences,” Jacques says. “Scent has been one of the least explored of the five senses, and is finally becoming as important as sound and design.”
Adding a vanilla or floral scent for the sake of having a scent isn’t going to cut it for hotels. One of the biggest hospitality trends is an emphasis on experiences, and that includes scent. Jacques adds, “The big trend now is that there’s no trend on product. There’s a trend on experience, and experience has to be custom.”
Reflecting on the Importance of Scent
Adding a scent to a brand or a hotel will give guests an added experience to remember next time they book their travel.
“The right scent at the right time can encapsulate the atmosphere of a space instantaneously—this connection is what we seek to capitalize on for the Andaz hotel experience,” Geisler says. “The goal is to not only create scents that connect to the unique guest experience at each property, but more importantly, to continue to evoke memories of the experience through scent long after the guest has departed.”
“More and more people are realizing that it’s important, specifically on memory,” Jacques adds. “Just like any other magic formula, you need to do it right. Otherwise, it just doesn’t work and it’s not magic anymore. It’s part of a sensory experience.”