Sensational Smells

Did you know that people recall smells with a 65% accuracy after a year, while the visual recall of photographs sinks to about 50% after only three months?

Think about it. I can conjure up the smell of clean sheets, biscuits baking in the oven, the smell of coffee brewing in my mom’s kitchen and the smell of my Grandma’s dining room with its “cake cupboard”.

Our odour memories frequently have strong emotional qualities and are associated with the good or bad experiences in which they occurred. Olfaction is handled by the same part of the brain (the limbic system) that handles memories and emotions.

Bearing this in mind, and also taking into account the well-researched fact that fragrances affect your mood, it makes sense to enhance the guest experience and thus their recall of their stay at your establishment, by ensuring that your establishment offers a “signature smell” that has positive connotations. There are so many ways in which you can do this, and not all of them are necessarily expensive or complicated.

Before you begin your search for your "signature smell", remember the following:

  • Neutralise offensive smells – stale smoke, smelly drains, strong cleaning materials and the like are unpleasant smells that can be harsh on the senses. Using vinegar, lemon or an ozone generator can help to neutralise these smells. Using too much vinegar can also be offensive, so be careful! Air out rooms before guest arrival as this also helps to clear out lingering odours.
  • Neutralising is NOT masking – Using MORE nice-smelling stuff to mask an unpleasant odour is seldom successful and is more often than not even more offensive.
  • Clashing fragrances can also be offensive – linen sprays, air fresheners and guest toiletries all form part of the guest experience and they should complement each other.

Keeping the mood in mind

What type of mood do you convey in your establishment? The décor, location, type of establishment and type of guest are all factors that contribute to the mood or ambience of your establishment. I know this sounds like esoteric “hoo-ha” to some people, so let me elaborate by way of a few examples:

  • If your establishment is at the seaside it is probably characterized by bright, airy rooms, light colours with lots of whites, blues and greens. Your guests are most likely holiday-makers who spend their time out and about, going to the beach, sightseeing, shopping and so on. The mood of your establishment is most likely HAPPY.
  • If your rooms are romantic, with warm tones, rich reds and oranges and the furnishings are plush and the fabrics luxurious, your guests are most likely couples looking for a secluded, romantic getaway. The mood of your establishment is most likely SENSUAL.
  • If your establishment is modern, maybe decorated in a minimalist way, with vibrant colours and contrasts, high-tech accessories and practical furnishings your guests are probably business travellers. The mood of your establishment is STIMULATING.
  • If your rooms are comfortable and spacious, decorated in earthy tones or muted, restful colours with hidden lighting, sophisticated but not ostentatious finishes, and décor accessories and furnishings in natural materials then your guests are most likely travellers looking for an escape from the daily grind, people who need to get in touch with nature. The mood of your establishment is most likely RELAXING.

Marrying moods and aromas

The next step in developing a “signature smell” is to find out which base fragrances would enhance the mood you wish to convey in your establishment.

Aromas for a HAPPY mood

  • Lemon – stimulating, deodorizing and uplifting.
  • Lemongrass – stimulating, reviving, energising and lifting to the spirits. Great for morning grumpiness!
  • Rose Otto – has an instant heart lifting and positive effect. As this smell instantly gives a feeling of happiness and pleasure it is an excellent oil to scent a room.
  • Sweet Basil – clarifying, uplifting, energising and refreshing.

Aromas for a SENSUAL mood

  • Patchouli – romantic, soothing and sensual.
  • Rosewood – extremely relaxing and sensual.
  • Sandalwood – mostly used for its effect on insomnia, stress, tension, and depression and is considered an aphrodisiac!
  • Ylang Ylang – considered to be a lover’s oil. Ylang Ylang is used for its anti-depressant, soothing and relaxing effects.

Aromas for a STIMULATING mood

  • Basil – cheers and strengthens the mind and purifies the atmosphere. It is also known for its inspirational effects.
  • Eucalyptus – refreshing and stimulating to the mind.
  • Pine – for feelings of weakness or mental fatigue, Pine gives a refreshing note to the mind.
  • Rosemary – stimulating, cleansing and clearing to the mind.

Aromas for a RELAXING mood

  • Cedar – great for meditation. It can be balancing, calming and relaxing.
  • Frankincense – has a calming effect and would be great for meditation. If you are feeling tired, grumpy or just in a bad mood try smelling a little Frankincense.
  • Lavender – both relaxing and stimulating. It may ease tension, insomnia, depression and stress.
  • Orange – encourages energy, gives courage and eases the emotion of worry. It is excellent for anyone who is feeling over-tired.

 Your signature smell

Once you have identified a fragrance that matches your establishment’s mood it doesn’t take much to make it work for you – simply ensure that your linen sprays, guest amenities and air fresheners all contain the same base fragrance. You could take it even further and include the base fragrance in sachets in the wardrobe, scented candles, potpourri and so on. Remember that overpowering smells are never pleasant, subtlety is the key.

A lingering trace of a wonderful fragrance is a powerful tool to make your establishment even more memorable.