The Art of

Open-Air Lobby Scenting

It is a common misconception that open-air lobbies cannot be scented but we have mastered the art of dispensing aroma in open and outdoor spaces

The Open Truth

Published May 31, 2021 by Vincent D'Angelo

 

It is the beginning of your holiday in Thailand—you have been traveling for 30 hours by taxi, airplane and now, hotel van. Your excitement is only matched by your exhaustion. As you fight the sandman to catch small glimpses of the clear blue sea in-between the row of luxury resorts that line the white sand beach, your weariness begins to take a backseat. You sit up and press your face against the van window, partly because you desire slumber above all else but also you are longingly focused on the road ahead with an air of desperation. Every other hotel brand has come and gone from your view. Then, you see it...the hotel you booked. As it comes into sight, you scurry to gather your belongings. Finally, the van comes to a halt. You can practically taste the welcome drink and feel the cold-scented towel they will soon offer you. The van door slides open, and you are immediately blinded by the sunlight. Your eyes quickly adjust to the brightness, and the open-air lobby comes into view. As you walk toward the check-in desk, you are greeted by a slightly warm, yet somehow refreshing breeze, quietly whistling in from the beach. There is no better feeling. 

Or is there?

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What if that mysteriously refreshing breeze also carried tiny wisps of a signature Pina Colada scent that slightly nudged your olfactory receptors, as if to say, "You can check-in later, the poolside tiki bar is waiting for you."

 

Hoteliers have long-since adopted the idea of lobby scenting or adding a light fragrance to the air, in and around the first customer touch-points (lobby, lounge, lift landings, etc.). This business practice, known as Ambient Scent Marketing or Aroma Branding, is often applied to a diverse range of business venues such as: casinos, retail shops, auto showrooms, exhibit halls, malls and even airplanes.

 

Many hotel owners and GMs, however,  opt not to scent their lobbies if theirs is open-air style. On paper, it seems to make sense; why would you add perfume to a space where the air is being infinitely refreshed by nature. Whether it's a highland resort in Chiang Mai with lobby views of undulating mountain landscapes or a luxurious beachside hotel in Phuket, it feels like a waste of money to add fragrance to the lobby air if you have no walls. We have heard it dozens of times from hotel management.

 

Yet, it CAN be done. 

Let's break it down into bite-size pieces, shall we?

The fresh air you experience in the mountains or on beaches, is not something that can be bottled or duplicated, like most other aromas. Why? Because it is not a "scent" per se, it is the absence of aroma that you notice most. Sure, it may have some hints of saltwater, sun tan lotion, local flora or even low tide (fishy), but it is all-natural and that's the allure. Essentially, it is the contrast between the polluted air of the city and a natural setting, that makes you feel like you are actually "smelling" the freshness.

So why do the few who scent their open-air lobbies, do it?

For some it's brand standard compliance. They are just following the rules of their logo. For those who are not bound by corporate regulations, it's a matter of purposefully controlling the environment.  But it goes much deeper than that. The two main reasons why companies employ scent marketing techniques are: to give you a  general sense of hygiene (more important now, than ever before) and to burn their brand image into your brain. Almost literally. Your limbic frontal cortex, to be exact.

 

Have you ever smelled an aroma and it took you back to your childhood? That is your limbic system hard at work, recalling memories and emotions that visual and audio cues cannot prompt you to access. They are called Olfactory Cues. And they are the number one reason why organizations use scent for brand recognition.  There have been countless studies conducted and they are all conclusive...Scent Branding works. There is a lot of science and psychology behind it, but suffice it to say, it is a subtle and inexpensive way to create loyalty amongst your fan-base. 

So maybe it's a gentle coconut fragrance lightly wafting through the lobby or perhaps a fresh cucumber melon aroma near reception to match your welcome drink. Whatever scent it may be, it is more than likely that your guests will always associate that aroma with your brand. And that is why those brave divergent few, scent their wall-free, first contact spaces.

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Pro Tip:

Apart from signature brand scents, Sun Tan Oil and Pina Colada are the two most popular aroma oils for open air lobbies on the beach

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How We Do It

We have a variety of equipment suited for outdoor use but the two diffusers pictured on the left are the most common machines we use for open spaces. They can even be wrapped to disguise them so they blend in (somewhat) to the setting. There is a formula for success in scenting outdoor spaces which includes:

 

  • Type and placement of diffusers

  • Number of machines used

  • Airflow Analysis

  • Use of high quality aroma oils (not diluted as many companies do)

  • (Shhh! The rest are company secrets)

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