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Why Or How Do Hotels Smell So Good?

Granite counter top, wooden toothbrush and soap.

To make you nostalgic, that’s why hotels smell so great!

Seriously though; every hotel wants to trigger your sense of smell because they know that it’s directly linked to your ability to formulate memories. According to psychologist and neuroscientist, Rachel Herz aromas are stronger triggers than visual stimuli, which is why hotels brand themselves by playing on people’s sense of smell.

While I initially thought that the pleasant aroma constantly wafting through posh hotels was a generic experience, I’ve since realized that each hotel has its own signature scent that’s created as a way to set itself apart from the rest.

How Do Hotels Ignite Your Senses?

A scented diffuser and indoor plants.

One of my first experiences with hotel scents came about while I was staying at one of the largest hotel chains in the world. While touring the hotel, I asked one of the staff why it smelled so good everywhere and they explained that the hotel had personalized diffusers in each suite.

This is what created the hotel’s signature smell, and it not only permeated each suite but lingered throughout the hotel lobby and common areas.

However, the diffuser is just one method that hotels use to set off the olfactory system of their guests. Bathrooms may also have stand-alone units such as reed diffusers which again are strategically added into the bathroom so the entire suite smells great.

Perfumes and Eau de toilettes may be sprayed on each pillow and on the carpet every time a guest arrives, and every morning during housekeeping. Another common way of really pushing the olfactory meter is through HVAC systems. This allows the hotel to force out the smell of the fragrance along with the air from the air conditioner.

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Yet another method that hotels use is the burning of a long-lasting candle in each room. Now, we all know that a vanilla candle with subtle hints of gardenia is all you need to set a nostalgic, romantic mood.

I am convinced that one of the reasons why hotels evenly distribute fragrances everywhere is to keep guests raving about their trips and how the bed linens smell so good even after being changed 100 times.

Exaggeration aside, you’re more likely to remember a hotel based on how incredible it smelled, among other things. And because first impressions last, it’s even more important for that incredible fragrance to hit you from the moment you enter the hotel.

study conducted in 2014 shows that the human nose can distinguish up to 1 trillion different odors. The only reason why we don’t talk about everything we smell is that we do not have enough words to describe each odor. When you venture into a hotel lobby, you don’t only unconsciously recognize the smell, but you consciously form a memory of it as well.


It’s All About Being Unique

Candles, scented soap and orchid in a wooden board.

Certain hotels like the Mandarin Hotel in Hyde Park, London, captivates their guests with whiffs of sandalwood, jasmine, frangipani, and musky patchouli. The whole place smells like the Garden of Eden.

The W Hotel, on the other hand, has a unique citrus fragrance that’s part of a signature combination of laurel, lemon blossoms, and green tea. I often yearn to bottle up the scents of some of the finest hotels and carry them home with me and it looks like I’m not the only one who wants to take that “hotel smell” home.

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So popular are hotel scents that hotel chains have latched onto the idea of bottling up their scents and selling them. Nowadays, you can buy a hotel’s signature scent for a couple of hundred dollars a pop and enjoy a feast for the senses right at home.

You can also invest in diffusers, and candles to ensure that your home smells just as wonderful as the hotel that you stayed at.  From the Westin to the Ritz Carlton, you can bask in the glory of having any hotel scent that you like in your own home.

A Scent of Mental Manipulation

A couple taking rest wearing bathrobe.

I love staying in hotels just to escape the humdrum of everyday life and it’s a great way to practice self-care as well. Hotels have this ability to evaporate stresses from the moment you walk through the lobby, which makes them ideal escapist destinations.

Self-aware hotel brands understand this which is why the first experience you get on arrival is a customized sensory one. Some hotels will even go as far as training their staff to customize a fragrance for each guest using a range of natural, locally sourced essential oils.

Speaking about hotels adding a personal touch to your stay- this for me has got to be one of the coolest things ever. However, there are hotels that take relaxation into consideration as well by allowing you to switch the fragrances in your oil diffuser to fragrances that will bring about a sense of calm and tranquility.

In fact, most hotels have specifically selected fragrances that when inhaled, can lead to automatic stress relief.

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Tugging at Heartstrings through Smells

A hotel bed with white towel and flowers.

Hotels are far from oblivious when it comes to understanding the power of fragrances to tug at the heartstrings. They spend large sums of money just to ensure that their signature scents envelop guests from the word go.

You’ll also notice that no two hotels smell the same. That, in essence, is the idea. Try and see if you can distinguish the different hotel scents you come across while traveling and then figure out which one is your favorite. Whether it’s that feeling of nostalgia that you crave or just stress relief, a trip to a hotel can drift you away to a sanctuary of sensory pleasure.