The travel industry uses scents to enhance your vacation and seduce you

Freshly baked bread. Freshly cut grass. A salty sea breeze. Most people have a favorite scent that brings back fond memories or a sense of comfort.

This sensory appeal has long been used by companies to sell scented candles, expensive perfumes and even houses. Now it is increasingly used in the travel industry, where airlines, hotels and entertainment venues deliberately incorporate scents into the ‘tourist experience’.

These companies want to take advantage of consumer research showing that pleasant scents are much more than smelling good. Scents have a certain ability to act as a source of information. Because they are elusive — we can’t see or touch them — our brains automatically associate them with experiences.

The travel industry is all about experiences. One of the main reasons people are willing to spend a lot of money visiting new places is to stimulate their senses with new sights, sounds, tastes and smells, such as the fragrant lavender of the south of France or eucalyptus on the Italian coast. Amalfi Coast.

An easy way to monetize this is for a hotel to sell its own signature shower gels or soaps so that customers can take a small portion of their vacation home with them. Ideally, when used in your own bathroom, they will be a reminder of a happy, relaxing stay – which you may be able to repeat with another booking.

My research suggests that major tourism organizations are becoming increasingly ambitious in using different fragrances as part of the services they provide. Specialist manufacturers now offer thousands of well-known fragrances for commercial use on an industrial scale.

A popular area of ​​’sensory marketing’ is where environmental odors are strategically emitted into the built environment to make it more attractive. Travel companies already use this tool in everything from airplanes (rose, lavender and citrus fruits on Singapore Airlines, for example) to airport lounges (orange peel and figs on United Airlines) and even in customs areas and parking lots.

Bathrooms and lobbies are often made to smell like lemon (or citrus in general), which, thanks to its widespread use in cleaning products, is now associated with cleanliness.

There are also scents that are considered “warm” (for example, cinnamon and vanilla) or “cool” (peppermint and eucalyptus). My previous research showed that these scents can have surprising effects on the perception of space.

Warm scents lead to a feeling of physical closeness, making spaces seem busier or fuller. In the travel world, these would not be used sensibly in elevators or airport security lines. Instead, a cool scent in these areas will make travelers feel less trapped.

Odors and Sensitivity

Scent can also be used to influence customer behavior. For example, there are studies that show that the same warm smells can reduce people’s calorie consumption. Perhaps surprisingly, it seems that the more exposed we are to the aromas of sweet treats like chocolate chip cookies, the less likely we are to want to eat them. In a hotel or spa, this could potentially be used to encourage tourists to make healthier food choices.

Studies have also shown that the smell of coffee makes people feel more energetic and alert, mimicking the actual effects of consuming caffeine. Hotels and airports could explore the use of coffee scent in business centers and meeting rooms, possibly to improve the cognitive performance of business travelers.

There may also be benefits for airlines dealing with tired passengers. A coffee smell emitted at the end of a long-haul flight can energize passengers, ultimately leading to a better travel experience and a more positive opinion of the airline.

Those customer opinions matter a lot in an industry that has been hit so hard by COVID-19. As tour operators want to lure travelers back to the plane and abroad, they need to find new ways to stand out.

For many of those customers, the desire to travel will already be strong. In a digital world, our ever-dominant screens have come to prioritize visual and auditory sensation at the expense of touch and smell. The pandemic exacerbated this situation with its limitations on movement and social interaction.

Beyond those screens, travel retains the potential to provide valuable and stimulating multisensory experiences. By harnessing our sense of smell and recognizing its impact on perceptions and behavior, this opens up huge opportunities for the industry to smell like roses.

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