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Hotels’ New Custom Scents

Chesley McLaren

Photo: Chesley McLaren

Scenting today is generally limited to a hotel’s public areas, but its future, according to Harald Vogt, founder of the three-year-old Scent Marketing Institute, is the guest room. “You have one lobby,” says Vogt, “but in Vegas you have 4,000 rooms up top, and soon you’ll check in and select a scent, and by the time you open the door your room will smell the way you want it to: fresh citrus or spring lilac or light winter wood.” Or, of course, no scent at all. “There are delivery systems in development that will give you up to five scent possibilities. And the remote control in your room will allow you to trigger your wake-up scent wirelessly.” Wake-up scent?

“Scent marketing is forecasted to be a $1 billion industry within the decade,” says Rachel Herz of Brown University, an expert in scent and psychology. Aroma, she says, “provides the most emotionally relevant experiential dimension to an interior environment,” reminding us of places and experiences, triggering associations. One of the pioneers of hotel scent branding is Westin Hotels & Resorts, where senior vice president Sue Brush says the company’s research found that “scent is most closely tied to memory, and if we’re in the business of creating memories and wanting our guests to choose Westin whenever they travel, we have to make a memory link.”

But for all the energy and money that go into the scientific measure of scent as a branding and marketing tool, some hotels are less businesslike about it. Michelle Gaillard, director of marketing for the Ian Schrager Company in New York, says there was no brand strategy involved in choosing a scent for the Gramercy Park Hotel. “Ian’s very instinctive about what he does in his hotels, and it felt like another design decision. When you go into the Hôtel Costes in Paris, they have a wonderful scent, and he used that experience as a reference. ‘You know how great it smells in the Hôtel Costes,’ he said. ‘Wouldn’t it be great to do something like that for the Gramercy?’ ”

Le Labo—Roschi and Penot’s shop—created a candle called “Cade 26” for the lobby and bar areas. “There is just no way you can walk into the Gramercy Park Hotel and not be intoxicated,” says Gaillard. “I feel like smell is my most heightened sense, and it’s terribly underrated. We’re all preoccupied with what stimulates us visually or audibly, and I think smell gets short shrift. Why not add it to the design mix?There’s just something very, very valuable in stimulating it.”

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