‘Scent’sible Choices Reviewed by Momizat on . Scenting in the hotel industry is more than just a trend; it is a need and a symbol of how guests remember and perceive the brand By Soumya Menon When you walk Scenting in the hotel industry is more than just a trend; it is a need and a symbol of how guests remember and perceive the brand By Soumya Menon When you walk Rating: 0
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‘Scent’sible Choices

Scenting in the hotel industry is more than just a trend; it is a need and a symbol of how guests remember and perceive the brand

By Soumya Menon

When you walk into the luxurious lobby of Sofitel Mumbai BKC, you are embraced by the powerful scent of bergamot, white rose, and jasmine of grasse complementing the brand’s design aesthetic, and sandalwood and lentisque exuding its sophistication. You envisage the French art de vivre (the art of living, French style), literally! Sofitel Luxury Hotels and Resorts distinguishes itself from all other luxury, boutique and lifestyle hotels in the world with this fragrance that embodies the brand’s iconic French luxury.
According to their fragrance partners Air Aroma, “the brand-wide scent strategy has helped Sofitel connect better with its guests. The sensory experience on arrival creates a journey for guests that both awakens and stimulates.”
High-end hotels and hotel groups across the world have caught on to this scent! They have adopted scent strategies, working with scent marketing experts and commissioning signature fragrances. So why is hotel scent branding important to hoteliers?
“The right fragrance can evoke warm memories, relax the body and mind. Controlled use of scent creates an inviting atmosphere. In India, clean citrus with hints of marigold or jasmine constructs in the guest’s mind a true Indian feel of lush floral gardens, strings of saffron marigold at a festive occasion or the comforting scent of citrus fruits,” said Akshay Chonkar, assistant director of rooms, The Ritz-Carlton, Bengaluru.
Scent strategy varies from one hotel to the other. While a lot of international groups have a single strategy and a single scent that distinguishes them from the others, some of them play around with various scents depending on the location and property.
Vikas Gulabrani, director at Blue Corpus Solutions, Partners of ScentAir USA said, “International chains like JW Marriott, Novotel, Le Meridien, Westin, Holiday Inn understand the importance of signature fragrances and its impact on guests walking in through the door, especially global travellers. These chains in association with ScentAir have established global brand scenting standards pertaining to their brands, which are now being deployed in India. There is more to scent strategy than simply fragrance selection. Other factors include how do you diffuse the scent, at what intensity, identifying target areas and the purpose behind it. Scent is the most powerful way to connect on emotional and memorable levels with your customers. The average person can recognise over 10,000 scents, so it is very important to get all the notes of the fragrance correct.”

Evoking the senses
Hotels work very closely with international fragrance brands and part of their strategy is to decide the kind of products to be used, the places that require the scent and the intensity and quantity of scent used. From diffusers and incense sticks to oils and candles, hotels target these products in areas like lobbies, guest rooms, washrooms, spas, F&B outlets, and public spaces.
For example, at Ritz-Carlton the spa area has an inviting frangipani scent, creating a tropical setting with the use of lighter, floral-citrus blend. Sofitel uses Sofitel Scents, specially developed by Air Aroma, in public spaces only, while guest rooms are sprayed only if required.
Hotels tie up with companies that have a trusted history in the scenting industry. Prolitec (partners of AirQ), for example, is an approved supplier of fragrance to Starwood Hotels & Resorts including Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts, Aloft Hotels, and St. Regis Hotels & Resorts. AirQ by Prolitec, has scenting systems that uniformly distribute fragrances via the HVAC systems throughout the property. “We also have direct diffusion wall mounted systems for hallways and restrooms. More importantly, our technology can increase and reduce scent intensities at different times of the day or on different days of the week, all based on customer requirement,” said Navin Khanna, managing partner, Nouvel Elements by AirQ.
Another trusted partner for scenting is ScentAir. Le Meridien uses a signature fragrance called LM01, which embodies the essence of the Le Méridien brand, created by ScentAir. The key ingredients of LM01 are cedarwood, musk, frankincense and iris. It is used in the lobby area in a very moderate amount.
ScentAir has a huge variety of patented solutions to cater to large lobbies, receptions and entrances (typically done via AHU) called Scent Stream and non-AHU solutions like Scent Direct and Scent Wave, which can be deployed for target-based scenting.
“Keeping in mind the weather in India, we deploy additional systems like water separators (in humid regions) and duct pressure sensors to the AHU scent machines so that the scent level does not drop due to change in weather conditions. We also offer scent marketing initiatives like Scent Sachet and Scent Sticks for small space scenting and corporate gifting. All fragrance oils are certified by the International Fragrance Association thus meeting the stringent safety standards, which is a necessity,” said Vikas Gulabrani.

The right note
Hotel scent branders have a lot to bear in mind while creating that perfect scent memory. It is almost always the most delicate and complex process. They need to understand the property’s architectural design, colours and textures, open and closed spaces and the reaction that fragrances evoke in a particular state of mind. For example, vanilla is considered to be comforting, musk is adventurous and clean, citrus is energising and uplifting, red berries is for optimism, patchouli is for sophistication, etc.
By way of example, Marriott Hotels’ lobbies have the unique blend of notes ranging from Cassis and Sparkling Fugi Apple to Wild Musk. This is one of the hotel’s signature fragrances: Attune and is available as diffusers, candles and cartridges in the market.
Vijay Maniar, partner, Pure Ved Mumbai, said that every signature scent is meant to achieve a particular outcome; some are to help guests relax and some are used to create a brand image. According to him, this movement started sometime around 2006, when several hotel chains decided to incorporate fragrance as part of their branding plans. Some are currently offering aromas as part of their meeting amenities. He pointed out that Starwood (now Marriott International) offers the Sensory Set-Up meeting option, which incorporates signature aromatherapy. Similarly, the Steigenberger Kurhaus Hotel in the Netherlands offers a meeting space, which allows customers to custom-design the room’s colour, sound, and scent at the touch of a button.
“It is very important for hoteliers and scent companies to work in conjunction in deciding the right fragrance. Scent marketing companies need to have in-depth knowledge on fragrances based on ambience, footfall, target audience, etc. A study has revealed that a scent chosen for a particular occasion along with the right music has the perfect impact. For example, Christmas music with a Christmas scent will enhance the effect it has on guests,” he added.
Sofitel Hotels & Resorts use an exclusive signature scent created by the famous perfumer, Lucien Ferrero, who took inspiration for his masterpieces from French savoir-faire. Fresh and crisp, this fragrance blends beautifully with a sophisticated and contemporary environment.

A WHIFF OF HISTORY
Scent was first introduced as a brand magnifier for Sofitel in 2009. It has since been an integral component in enhancing the sensorial experience in each of its hotels. Shilpa Kosambia, executive housekeeper, Sofitel Mumbai BKC said that the role of scent in brand differentiation and guest experience enhancement becomes more significant as guests are able to distinguish different hotels from their signature fragrances. “The use of scent has the ability to directly influence how your hotel is perceived and remembered. Creating unique guest experiences is a key trend for luxury, boutique and lifestyle-branded hotels. With an exclusive, custom signature scent, hotels can create the perfect ambience and create a powerful impression with guests,” she added.
Marriott International has a fragrance programme with three brands, Joya, ScentAir and Brandaroma, and all the hotels under the Marriott umbrella have created signature fragrances with the help of these two brands. In fact, Marriott products are even available for sale for people who want to give their homes a similar aromatic feel.
Marriott Hotels for example have created a scent that is used in their properties across the world. “Through our partnerships with Joya and ScentAir, we have developed a signature scent to help create not only a sophisticated first impression, but a positive reinforcement of the Marriott Hotel experience, each time our guests pass through a scented area,” stated the group.
Starwood Hotels and Resorts that comes under the Marriott umbrella have signed up a ‘fragrance programme’ with ScentAir and according to the group, “is working on the principle that the human’s strongest sense is that of smell, Starwood brands have worked to develop its own unique fragrances”. Here are some of their most unique fragrances: aloft – Vibrance; Element – Sparkling Green Tea and Tonic; Four Points by Sheraton – Citrus Bourbon; The Luxury Collection (EAME) – The Luxury Collection Palette; Sheraton – Open Skies; and Westin – White Tea (blend of white tea with wood cedar and vanilla).
JW Marriott uses a fragrance that has effervescent citrus providing the bright top note for the heart of cyclamen infused with a hint of aromaticity and a finishing base of creamy amber.
Hotels such as Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris use jasmine as its signature fragrance. It is symbolic of India, and is known for its therapeutic qualities that inspire calmness and tranquillity. “As a fragrance that is native to our region, this scent was carefully crafted to provide an immediate reminder of the quintessential ‘Taj’ experience as soon as a guest walks through the doors of a Taj Hotel. Across all our hotels, this delicate fragrance is versatile and is diffused only in the public areas,” said a Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris spokesperson.
Some hotel groups believe that the sense of smell works best for brand recall. Ginger Hotels’ signature fragrance is a scintillating mix of zesty ginger, orange and citrus and was created with La Scenteur. “This is disseminated using diffusers in our public spaces and washrooms,” said Nikhil Sharma, COO, Ginger Hotels.

Guest satisfaction
For any scent marketing strategy to work, the requirement is to understand the concept of audience. What are the factors that determine an audience’s response to a particular scent? Their origin, what they like and dislike while growing up and what scents evoked what memories.
Several brand marketing research books state that “people are able to recall smells with a 65% accuracy after a year whereas visual recall of photographs falls to around 50% after just three months.” Scent marketing companies have an extensive list of factors and questions before creating that perfect scent and a fragrance success template to make sure the hotel’s goals are met. They even conduct scenting trials to better understand the impact of a scent on guests.
The focus is completely on understanding the hotel’s definition of their audience and the message that they want to pass on. ScentAir, for instance, works very closely with all the hotels. According to them most hotels have been using some form of scenting (via burning oils or air fresheners or candle based diffusors). However, to get that perfect scent, their team sits with the brand managers, owners, general managers and the EHKs to understand what their brand stands for, what kind of experience do they expect the guest to feel when they walk in through the door and their own analysis of the décor and ambience.
Ritz-Carlton, for example, wants their guests to experience the brand’s rich and cosmopolitan heritage. The rich, woody ‘Ritz-Carlton Black Orchid’ fragrance is therefore fresh woody, young and ambitious. The fragrance is used through dispensers in the AC vents.
“While Black Orchid is our brand standard, the director of rooms and director of spa, along with the General Manager are involved in scent curation for spas. We work alongside ScentAir. The sense of smell is a very important aspect of how we deconstruct a place in our minds. Investing in the right scent is very important since it is an invisible guiding factor for guests to interpret the luxury quotient of our hotels,” said Akshay Chonkar.
New York-based Air Aroma brings together a team of interior designers, marketing experts, psychologists, graphic designers, and perfumers to understand a hotel’s requirement. According to the group, it is essential to dig deep into people’s minds to design a signature fragrance. Their research and development expenses run into millions of dollars for a formulation.
Every person has a very specific olfactory preference and finding what is most appealing is the art of scent marketing. This has surely raised the fragrance bar to a high level for hoteliers and in the attempt to find the right note, things can also go wrong. For example, using an American style scent in an Arabic style hotel can create strong negative impressions.
When St. Regis Hotels & Resorts along with ARTQUISTE, a fragrance manufacturer, created ‘Caroline’s Four Hundred’ fragrance, the reception was amazing. They wanted to transport their guests to the posh ballroom of Caroline Astor, the matriarch of the hotel’s founding family and doyenne of New York’s Gilded Age society, with the scents of roses, lilies and cherry blossoms.
“We are thrilled that ARQUISTE could capture the spirit of the brand for our discerning guests to enjoy, whether they are staying with us and when they are at home,” said Daphne Sipos, global brand director, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts.
An approach that has worked best for Shangri-La Hotels is the mixed strategy. The group uses a combination of scents across the hotel. Though they have a signature fragrance, which is used in the lobby area, they believe that every space has its own vibe and this should be enhanced with the right scents. Brandaroma from Hong Kong and Sense of Aroma are their corporate vendors for scents used in their Governor and Presidential suites.
“We use lavender oil at our signature CHI The Spa and lemongrass oil at the Health Club. Both these oils are very refreshing and naturally relaxing. Our guests have come back and enquired about the scents used. This definitely reflects the impact that the fragrance has on the guests’ experience at the hotel,” said Kiran Kumar, executive housekeeper at Shangri-La Hotel, Bengaluru.

Growing market
Aroma branding is not a new concept in the hospitality industry but it has grown rapidly in the last one decade. Bloomberg reported in 2015 that hotels spent an estimated $300 million in the scent-branding industry. It has become so intense that hoteliers plan their scent strategy as part of their overall brand strategy for the launch of new properties.
“Deploying a well-defined scent strategy is no more a luxury but a necessity. Property owners are realising the importance of a well-defined brand strategy and an effective scenting system. The cost of custom scents is not that high (it is a one-time cost, not a recurring expense),” said Vikas Gulabrani. Following safety standards and using the right product is more important, which will mitigate unnecessary costs.
Creating an improved guest experience is vital for the success in today’s high-end hotel industry, added Navin Khanna. “The addition of fragrance leads to immediate improvements in guest feedback, which translates to improved reviews on user generated sites such as TripAdvisor. Higher guest ratings drive occupancy rates, which improve brand loyalty and ultimately ROI”.
While the stomach still remains the fastest route to a guest’s heart, hoteliers are now banking on another sensory perception to capture their customer’s attention and hopefully, their loyalty. And going by what the industry has to say, their nose has caught the right scent!

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