JOURNALIST Elaine Gao claims that were she to don a blindfold and then ask to be taken to a hotel at random, a single sniff of the surroundings would be enough for her to determine whether it’s her favorite hospitality brand Shangri-La.
This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise as many international chains have started creating their own “hotel scent” in recent years.
This adds to guests’ experiences, and hopefully strengthens their brand awareness and loyalty, the chains say.
“Scents create an impression, and when customers are surrounded by a consistent brand message it reinforces brand identity,” says Johnson Wong, group director of rooms, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, a Hong Kong hospitality group with more than 89 hotels globally.
Smell is one of the most powerful and evocative senses — partly because it’s hard to turn off. According to the Sense of Smell Institute, the education division of fragrance industry body the Fragrance Foundation, the average human is able to recognize approximately 10,000 different smells and can recall smells with 65 percent accuracy after a year.
When designing their scent, hotels try to make it reflect its DNA. Shangri-La’s scent is subtly Asian — featuring a delicate note of oriental sandalwood — expressing, it says, its Asian hospitality tradition and highlighting a warm service exceeding guests’ expectation.
Meanwhile, Westin, the luxury brand of US-headquartered Starwood Group, uses white tea scent to express its brand, aiming to reflect hospitality with simple elegance. Sofitel, the luxury brand of French hotel group Accor, seeks to promote a classic French lifestyle globally through a scent distributed through cold air diffusers, perfumes, sprays and scented candles.
Some hotel groups emphasize consistency, requiring all their hotels worldwide to use the same scent — such as Marriott, Shangri-La and Langham — while others, such as Sofitel, make slight a distinction between city hotels and resorts.
Some brands take the personal touch a little further. For example, Cassia, the hotel brand belonging to Singapore-founded Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts, requires that all properties use a fruit-based scent but with a local touch for each.
And the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai has different scents to match its old and new buildings.
The old part uses fig fragrance with deep notes to create classical ambience. Its new building uses a light, fresh scent for a contemporary feeling.
And branding aside, scent also simply makes for a more pleasant stay.
“Although unquantifiable, we feel that it certainly has an impact on guests’ patronage,” says Wong from Shangri-La.
Some guests are so enamored they ask the hotel if they can buy the scent, leading to a new sideline in everything from scented candles to toiletries.
Search for exquisite beauty
Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts spent six months creating its scent “Essence of Shangri-La,” inspired by the James Hilton’s novel “Lost Horizon” (1933), which describes the land of exquisite harmony and beauty called Shangri-La.
The fresh and clean scent evokes serenity and calm with base notes of vanilla, sandal and musk, and highlighted by top notes of light bergamot, white tea and ginger.
The scent soon became so popular among guests that the hotel developed a range of scented products, with highlights including scented spray and oil.
Where to buy: 1/F, 33 Fucheng Rd, Pudong Shangri-La, East Shanghai
Westin hotels all over the world use white tea scent to create a balanced, refreshing ambience.
Plants and flowers, lighting and music in the hotels are designed to be in harmony with the scent. It is also diffused in rooms and all bath amenities feature white tea fragrance — from shampoo and conditioners to soap and body lotion.
All the scented products, including diffusers, candles and room sprays are available on the hotel chain’s official website.
In a bid to express Sofitel’s brand message — a sense of intimacy, a touch of audacity, a splash of originality and a dash of poetry — the chain has worked with L’Artisan Parfumeur, a French pioneer in the niche perfume sector.
All of its city hotels use a fig scent, while Sofitel resorts use Bois d’orient — a French expression for an oriental flavored drink.
SPA and fitness center areas have their own distinctive scents — Jatamansi for the former and Parfum de Feuilles for the latter, which has a garden scent, combining crushed stems, herbs and dewy grass.
Cassia, a new brand launched by Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts, uses fruit-based scent to create a refreshing and playful ambience. But the fragrance differs from one establishment to another since the scent should be from a fruit that is predominantly found locally. Using its property in Phuket as an example, the scent used is yuzu orange, a local fruit featuring a refreshing citrus note. Scent used by Banyan Tree, the group’s signature brand, is sweet and floral “Thai chamanard.”
The Langham hotel group customized fragrance ginger flower, is used in all of its hotels and resorts. The fragrance, combining floral note and sweet warm spices, is said to express a feminine touch, echoing the hotel’s signature pink color decor.
Guests can buy the ginger flower scented oil and candles at the hotel’s gift shop.
Where to buy: 1/F, 99 Madang Rd, Langham Xintiandi Shanghai
Marriott hotels across the world use its customized fragrance Attune to create a sophisticated first impression. Attune is a blend mixing notes of vivacious cassis, sweet fresh apple and deep lingering musk, says the chain. Attune candles are on sale at the hotel’s gift shop.
Where to buy: 4/F, 555 Xizang Rd M., Marriott Shanghai City Centre