Ever wondered what that welcoming, clean scent is when you enter a hotel lobby? Hotels often use signature scents and aromas to evoke certain feelings and impressions among guests.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Hotels commonly use subtle scents like citrus, vanilla, sea breeze, and light florals to create a clean, yet inviting aroma. Brands develop custom scents that reflect their image and identity.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the science behind hotel scent marketing, the most popular aroma choices, methods for diffusing fragrances, and tips for making your own signature scent.

The Psychology and Strategy Behind Hotel Scents

Have you ever walked into a hotel and instantly felt a sense of relaxation and comfort? Chances are, the hotel’s signature scent played a significant role in creating that atmosphere. Hotel scents are carefully chosen to not only provide a pleasant aroma but also to evoke specific emotions and enhance the overall guest experience.

Let’s explore the psychology and strategy behind hotel scents.

Evokes Positive Emotions and Memories

One of the primary reasons hotels use scents is to create a positive emotional connection with their guests. Smell is a powerful sense that is closely linked to our emotions and memories. By choosing the right scent, hotels can trigger feelings of relaxation, happiness, and even nostalgia, making guests feel more comfortable and at ease during their stay.

Studies have shown that certain scents, such as lavender or citrus, have a calming effect and can reduce stress levels. These scents are often used in hotel lobbies and common areas to create a welcoming ambiance.

On the other hand, scents like fresh linen or ocean breeze can evoke a sense of cleanliness and freshness, enhancing the perception of a well-maintained hotel.

Increases Guest Satisfaction

The use of scents in hotels goes beyond creating a pleasant atmosphere. It has been found that pleasant odors can significantly impact guest satisfaction and overall perception of the hotel. When guests associate a particular scent with a positive experience, they are more likely to have a favorable opinion of the hotel and even recommend it to others.

In fact, a study conducted by the Sense of Smell Institute found that guests were willing to pay up to 23% more for a hotel room that had a pleasant scent compared to one without any scent. This shows the potential impact of using carefully chosen scents as part of a hotel’s overall strategy to increase guest satisfaction and ultimately drive revenue.

Reinforces Brand Identity

In addition to creating a pleasant and memorable experience, hotel scents also play a crucial role in reinforcing a hotel’s brand identity. Just like how a logo or color scheme can instantly remind you of a specific brand, a signature scent can have the same effect.

Hotels often work with fragrance companies to create custom scents that align with their brand values and target audience. For example, a luxury hotel may opt for a scent that exudes elegance and sophistication, while a boutique hotel may choose a more unique and unconventional fragrance.

This consistency in scent across different areas of the hotel, such as the lobby, guest rooms, and even the spa, helps to create a cohesive brand experience for guests.

Most Popular Hotel Aroma Types

Citrus Scents

Citrus scents are one of the most popular aroma types used by hotels. The invigorating and refreshing fragrance of citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruits create a vibrant and uplifting atmosphere.

The zesty aroma of citrus scents is known to enhance mood and increase energy levels, making it a perfect choice for hotel lobbies and common areas where guests gather.


Vanilla scents are another popular choice among hotels. The warm and comforting fragrance of vanilla creates a cozy and inviting ambiance. The sweet and creamy aroma of vanilla is often associated with relaxation and can help guests feel at ease during their stay.

Many hotels use vanilla scents in their guest rooms to provide a soothing and calming experience for their guests.

Sea Breeze/Fresh Linen

The scent of sea breeze or fresh linen is commonly used by hotels to create a clean and refreshing atmosphere. This aroma type evokes a sense of cleanliness and purity, making guests feel like they are staying in a pristine environment.

The fresh and airy fragrance of sea breeze or fresh linen can be found in hotel rooms, hallways, and even in the hotel’s spa or fitness center.

Light Florals

Light floral scents are often chosen by hotels to add a touch of elegance and sophistication to their spaces. Fragrances such as jasmine, rose, and lavender create a delicate and floral ambiance that can enhance the overall guest experience.

These scents are commonly used in hotel lobbies, reception areas, and even in the hotel’s restaurants to create a pleasant and welcoming environment.

Woodsy Scents

Hotels that aim to create a cozy and rustic atmosphere often opt for woody scents. The earthy and warm fragrance of woods such as cedar, sandalwood, and pine can transport guests to a tranquil and natural setting.

These scents are commonly used in hotel spas, relaxation areas, and even in guest rooms to provide a sense of serenity and relaxation.

Green Tea

Green tea scents have gained popularity in recent years due to their refreshing and soothing properties. The fresh and herbal fragrance of green tea can create a calming and zen-like ambiance, perfect for hotels that offer wellness and relaxation services.

Guests can often find green tea scents in hotel spas, fitness centers, and relaxation areas.

Cookies or Baked Goods

Hotels sometimes use scents that remind guests of freshly baked cookies or other baked goods. These comforting and nostalgic aromas can create a home-like atmosphere and make guests feel welcomed and taken care of.

The scent of cookies or baked goods is often used in hotel lobbies, common areas, and even in some guest rooms to create a cozy and inviting environment.

These are just a few of the most popular hotel aroma types. Different hotels may use different scents based on their desired ambiance and target audience. The choice of scent can greatly contribute to the overall guest experience and leave a lasting impression.

Methods for Diffusing Fragrances in Hotels

Heating Fragranced Oils

One popular method for diffusing fragrances in hotels is through the use of heating fragranced oils. This method involves placing a few drops of scented oil into a small dish or burner, which is then heated to release the fragrance into the air.

The heat causes the oil to evaporate, filling the room with a pleasant aroma. Hotels often choose oils with calming or refreshing scents, such as lavender or citrus, to create a welcoming atmosphere for their guests.

Candles or Reed Diffusers

Another common method used in hotels to create a pleasant scent is through the use of candles or reed diffusers. Candles can be lit in hotel rooms or common areas to release their fragrance. Reed diffusers, on the other hand, consist of reeds placed in a scented liquid, which slowly diffuses the fragrance into the air.

Both options provide a subtle and long-lasting scent that helps enhance the overall ambiance of the hotel.

Scented Sprays

Scented sprays are a quick and convenient way to add fragrance to hotel rooms. These sprays come in a variety of scents and can be sprayed directly into the air or onto fabrics such as curtains or upholstery.

Hotels often use scented sprays in common areas or guest rooms to freshen up the space and create a pleasant environment for guests.

HVAC or Air Duct Systems

Some hotels opt to use their HVAC or air duct systems to diffuse fragrances throughout the building. By adding scented oils or cartridges to the system, the fragrance can be distributed evenly through the air vents, ensuring that every part of the hotel is infused with a pleasant scent.

This method is particularly effective for larger hotels with multiple floors and rooms.

Aromatherapy Devices

Aromatherapy devices, such as diffusers or vaporizers, are also commonly used in hotels to create a soothing and relaxing atmosphere. These devices work by dispersing scented oils into the air, allowing guests to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of aromatherapy.

Hotels often choose oils with calming scents, such as lavender or chamomile, to help guests unwind and promote a good night’s sleep.

Creating a Unique Scent for Your Hotel

When it comes to creating a memorable experience for your guests, every detail matters. One way to enhance the ambiance of your hotel is by using a unique scent that sets the mood and leaves a lasting impression. Here are some key considerations for choosing the perfect scent for your hotel:

Reflect Your Location or Surroundings

One approach to creating a unique scent for your hotel is to draw inspiration from your location or surroundings. For example, if your hotel is situated in a coastal area, you may want to consider scents that evoke the ocean breeze or the smell of fresh sea salt.

On the other hand, if your hotel is located in a mountainous region, scents reminiscent of pine forests or crisp mountain air could be more fitting. Reflecting your surroundings through scent can help create a cohesive and immersive experience for your guests.

Align with Your Brand Image

Your hotel’s scent should also align with your brand image and the overall atmosphere you want to create. If your brand is known for its luxury and elegance, you may want to choose scents that are sophisticated and opulent, such as a blend of exotic spices or rich floral notes.

On the other hand, if your brand is more focused on providing a relaxed and casual atmosphere, scents like fresh linen or a light citrus fragrance may be more appropriate. The scent you choose should reinforce your brand identity and leave a lasting impression on your guests.

Consider Your Target Guests

Understanding your target guests is crucial when selecting a scent for your hotel. Consider the demographics and preferences of your guests. Are they mostly business travelers looking for a professional environment or vacationers seeking a relaxing getaway?

The scent should cater to their preferences and enhance their overall experience. Conducting surveys or gathering feedback from your guests can help you better understand their preferences and tailor the scent accordingly.

Test Scents and Get Feedback

Before committing to a specific scent, it’s important to test different options and gather feedback from staff and guests. You can create sample scents or use fragrance testers in different areas of your hotel to gauge the reactions of people.

Pay attention to their responses and make adjustments accordingly. Keep in mind that everyone’s scent preferences can vary, so it’s essential to gather a diverse range of feedback to make an informed decision.

Use Subtlety – Don’t Overpower

While having a unique scent can enhance the overall experience, it’s important to use it subtly and not overpower the senses. The scent should be noticeable but not overwhelming, as some guests may have sensitivities or allergies.

A gentle and well-balanced scent can create a pleasant and inviting atmosphere without being too overpowering.

Creating a unique scent for your hotel is an excellent way to leave a lasting impression on your guests. By reflecting your location or surroundings, aligning with your brand image, considering your target guests, testing scents, and using subtlety, you can create a memorable and immersive experience that sets your hotel apart from the rest.

Potential Drawbacks and Precautions

Guests with Allergies or Sensitivities

While hotel scents can enhance the overall guest experience, it’s important to consider the potential drawbacks. One significant concern is guests with allergies or sensitivities to certain smells. Some individuals may experience headaches, respiratory issues, or other discomfort when exposed to strong scents.

Hoteliers should be mindful of this and choose scents that are mild and non-irritating. Additionally, it’s advisable to have fragrance-free rooms or designated areas for guests who prefer scent-free environments.

Overuse Can Be Overpowering

While a pleasant aroma can create a welcoming atmosphere, overusing scents can have the opposite effect. Imagine stepping into a hotel lobby that is saturated with a strong fragrance – it can be overwhelming and off-putting.

Hoteliers should be cautious not to overuse scents and ensure that they are appropriately diffused throughout the space. It’s important to strike a balance so that the scent enhances the ambiance without becoming overpowering.

Lack of Consistency Across Locations

Another potential drawback of hotel scents is the lack of consistency across different locations. Guests may come to associate a particular scent with a specific hotel brand or property, creating a sense of familiarity and comfort.

However, if scents vary too much from one location to another, it can disrupt this association and potentially confuse guests. Hotel chains should strive for consistency in scent selection, ensuring that the chosen fragrance aligns with the brand’s identity and is replicated across all properties.

Improper Storage Can Fade Scents

Hotel scents are typically stored in diffusers or other fragrance dispensing systems. However, if these systems are not properly maintained or stored, the scents can fade over time. This can result in a diminished olfactory experience for guests, who may have come to expect a certain aroma during their stay.

Hoteliers should regularly check and maintain their scent dispersal systems to ensure that the fragrance remains consistent and impactful.


Scents can be a powerful yet subtle way for hotels to influence guests’ impressions and emotions. By sticking to light, pleasant aromas that align with their brand and cater to their guests, hotels can create an unforgettable scent experience.

With proper strategy and fragrance diffusion methods, signature scents help hotels stand out from the competition.

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