Thursday, 28 November 2013


The trend of adopting a signature scent is not as new as we may think. Perhaps because hotels have to be enticing enough to have guests really wish to visit them and choose them over another, there must be facets that are distinguishing. Also, hotels are really an experience-based industry; hence they must be able to ensnare all the five senses of the guest, smell being no less important.

Tycoon Steve Wynn set the tradition, as early as 1990, for casinos by using the vents at The Mirage to release a scent. Today, the Wynn Las Vegas boasts its very own olfactory logo in Asian Rain.

Hotel literature has it that, The Westin was the first major hotel brand to globally announce a signature scent for its hotels back in 2005.

Fragrance Experts Are the Secret

It is not uncommon to see hotels contract well-known fragrance experts, perfume inventers and perfumers to develop bespoke house fragrances. La Mamounia in Marrakech and Hotel Costes in Paris have employed celebrity noses to do a bit of sniffing for them. “Here at La Mamounia the unique fragrance has been developed by Olivia Giacobetti. It is an intriguing mix of dates, rose and cedar that rises up to define the essence of the legendary hotel almost seraphically,“ offers Pierre Jochem, the General Manager.

Le Meridian appointed Le Labo, a New York based boutique perfumer to develop an exclusive woody, leathery note for their hotels. Le Labo was also commissioned by the legendary hotelier, Ian Schrager, to develop a unique scent for New York located Gramercy Park Hotel.

Rare Scents and Quality Ecological Products

The more chic and tony the hotel, the more exclusive is the smell it will choose to adopt as its own. While Vanilla, citrus, fig and green tea notes are usually preferred, the more different and hard to find or place your scent, the more it becomes sought after and remembered.

“At J Brand, smell, the most evocative of the senses, is a vital part of the experience. We are commissioning one of Asia’s most famous and insightful “nez” to develop a customized scent crafted from 100% essential oils. With an exceptional range of purely natural products and highly developed room scenting technology, we are creating the optimal scent experience for our spaces. All of the essential oils will be generated using environmentally friendly plants and therefore meet the growing need of people for purity. The high quality ecological products also represent the highest levels of sustainability,” offers Timur Senturk, Managing Director, J Hotel Shanghai Tower underlining his Company’s ‘responsible hoteliering’ philosophy.

The olfactory onslaught, delivered through the hotel’s heating and cooling systems, pretty aroma lamps, tactfully placed atomizers or ingeniously built in lighting diffusers, is indeed a special touch that has a decisively lingering presence on the guest’s mind in the most subliminal way.

Simon Harrop, the CEO of UK based Brand Sense Agency, champions the relevance of signature scents in hotels. He gives a time-tested example from the sister travel business when he shares, “Singapore Airlines has a branded scent used in all of its planes, a light sweet scent like pure steam from fresh rice.”  He tells us that scent branding has been used in the travel industry since the mid-1970s. “If you’re booking a flight with SQ, you’ll find it that much harder to go with the competition because the Singapore scent builds the brand in the limbic system,” emphasizes Harrop.

Signature Scents for Sale

Some hotels are milking this already purposeful branding opportunity for larger gain and effect. Like The Plaza, there are others that are bottling up their signature scents and letting the guests buy the vials, sprayers or candles for later use.

Hotel Vermont in Burlington, Vt. enamours its guests with a heady mix of cedar wood and lavender in its lobby along with a signature linen mist – both of which have been developed in consultation with established aroma therapist Leyla Bringas of Lunaroma. As a first, Hotel Vermont also presents a unique aromatherapy menu for its guests to choose from, but more on that later.   

Patrick Hen, in his Study “Emotional Brand management using Scent: the Effect of Scent on the Perception and Rating of Brands”, noted that “a scent which is suitable for the product is seen as fostering trust.”

Remember while the physical experience will become a part of your memory, the smell will get into your subconscious and surface at all those unexpected moments taking you into an effervescent trip of time travel. Scent plays a major part in not only being an instant mood up-lifter but also being a great paired associate and memory mnemonic. 


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Learning Fitness from the Hotel Legends!

There is this picture that has appeared in the papers recently. It shows an elderly man standing next to a seated Rev. Desmond Tutu. What caught my eye is that the man is standing erect, in perfect posture and his entire bearing depicts that he is in great health; despite his advancing years. The man we are talking about is Capt. C P Krishnan Nair, the founder of Leela Hotels, Palaces and Resorts. It could have been the fact that being an ex Freedom Fighter and Army Man Capt. Nair followed a strict regimen all his life, ensuring that he stayed young in physical frame and mind even when he became a nonagenarian.

You want more Chicken Soup for your heart and soul then take a note of this! “This doyen of one of India’s top hospitality chains started his first hotel at the ripe age of 65; at a stage when most CEOs contemplate retiring from the frenetic pace of the corporate world and boardroom battles,” writes C.J. Punnathara in his interview of the path breaking Hotelier. “Even today, Nair’s indomitable spirit and enthusiasm have him working on elaborate expansion plans - for both The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts, and India,” says the Company Website. At 91, that is truly an exemplary way to lead your life.

There is something about fit and sprightly men being at the reins of their successful mega empires; always in control, firmly ensconced in the pilot seat. Their life’s principles and philosophies percolate down to the least common denominator and ensure that the organisation as a whole stays healthy in mind, body and spirit. The very few exceptions being The Donald, Jay Leno and the irrepressible Oprah Winfrey; but Winfrey’s ongoing battle with the bulge is legendary and she has stressed upon the relevance of fitness enough times.

Conrad Hilton lived up to a fit and fine 91. The torch bearer of the hotel industry and founder of the standard-setting global business stayed active well-beyond the time he officially retired into the emeritus position of Chairman of the Board. Sol Kerzner, not only married for the fourth time at the age of 65 in Year 2000, but today at 78 he is busy dreaming up ways to add more sparkle to his already illustrious bouquet that comprises Atlantis hotels, One&Only resorts, Sun International and Southern Sun.

Once Richard Branson was asked by a group of his friends how he is so much more productive and manages to accomplish a zillion things more than the average person, while being the master puppeteer of a 400-company conglomerate that spans a wide range of industries from space travel to deep sea exploration, from music to cell phones. His two word answer was “Work out.” This astonishingly simple answer forms a pretty good base for Branson’s life ideology – healthy mind nurtured within a healthy body that works like hell to ensure a healthy business.

I remember a quick informal exchange within the confines of a strictly formal meeting with the legendary PRS ‘Biki’ Oberoi, with whose fantastic Company I have had the good fortune to work. For some odd reason, between discussions about PR budgets and strategies, Newsletter focus and style and Media management, the talk swung to my obsession with my weight. The grand man, who is as fit as a fiddle, advised me on following a certain dietary discipline and pattern – try to eat carbs before seven, never mix rice with lentils, pick up a piece of Indian bread instead, move around as much as you can...........basic stuff but something that we tend to ignore. Biki Oberoi is a sharp man – sharply suited with a razor sharp mind that he employs to best use in running a super fine hotel chain. To this day, in spite of Oberoi being 78, it is difficult to beat his alacrity, attention to detail, a roving eye that never misses a thing – from speck of dust to a wrongly titling rose bud in a vase, close equations with spreadsheets and numbers, hunger for being the best and a unique vision.

These men of will and wealth can eat gold if they wish to, off their silver platters. And forget about just drinking, they can bathe in the finest, expensive wines out there. Yet they believe in living a life of moderation, keeping aspects of health and fitness right on top and not succumbing to temptations as often as you and I would.

It is an urban myth to say that hoteliers don’t have the time to exercise; what with our busy schedules and long, long hours. I have been guilty of using this utterly feeble statement several times, only to my dismal loss.

The guy who uttered these immortal lines, “Where there is a will, there is a way!” sure knew just what the world wanted to latch on to at times of grave lows in motivation. The saying is a perfect tight slap in the face of all excuses – real or imagined.

When I really have wanted to be in shape, I have willingly huffed and puffed my way up three and a quarter flight of steps to the mezzanine floor corner office of the Top Dog. Done over a period of time, I have noticed my steps becoming lighter, the grimace giving way to a satisfied smile and the ‘huff & puff’ getting replaced by steadier breathing and stronger heart. All in a day’s work, really!

I have seen colleagues, with longer schedules (such as those in Front Office and Food & Beverage), finding novel ways to stay fit if they have set their minds to it. A Director – Food & Beverage would use his break time to go sweat it out in the Hotel Gym (in the non-guest hours, of course), take a quick shower and return to this desk as spruced up in his tie and suit as he was at the start of the day. I have been witness to the ‘shape & shine’ routine of the Director of Sales & Marketing who seldom called it a day before midnight. Every time he, exhilaratingly, talked about getting a new hole punched in his belt, he carved out a fresh motivational standard for us. Yes, it’s the same colleague who marked the ‘one glass every hour’ rule for me and ensured that I had my mandatory fill of water each time he stepped into my office for a business chat or a round of casual talk. Bless the guy! And I can’t thank him enough for setting me on this watery path of enlightenment.

Then there was this Executive Housekeeper colleague, whose role revolved more around walking through the hotel than sitting behind a bulky desk. Yet, in her zeal to keep her contours within a slim silhouette, she would rise up at five every morning and go for a longish round of brisk walk before getting into her day role that involved more walk.

So, what’s your excuse?

Friday, 1 November 2013


Tell me frankly, what is the first thing that strikes you when you enter the precincts of a luscious hotel? Is it the imposing Baccarat Chandelier with ear drop crystals reflecting a desire and a promise for luxe living? Or is it the ever-smiling staff, starched in shape and fine tuned to deliver that impeccable service? Let me reveal a secret. Even before your eyes have set a target for appreciation or a trained hand has automatically extended to welcome you into the fold of the star hotel, it is the smell that fills you up with a superlatively nice, inviting, warm, nostalgic or breathtaking feeling, as the case may be. The signature scent of a hotel is such a subtle yet significant branding exercise in a hotel’s scheme of things that the management mandarins spend precious hours and pretty pennies in deciding what should define their property.

A luxury brand I used to work for advanced from Citronella and Mandarin essential oils to a fragrance from the house of Fragonard that came to be identified with the hotel and became a conversation starter with the local and international guests.

Religious rituals and incense have an age-old, time preserved marriage and several Indian regional hotels welcome Gods and guests with an overpowering gust of incense usually burned up in multiples. If you are visiting a traditional hotel in South India, the choice of the burning incense or the lack thereof will tell you from a distance what kind of establishment you are about to step into. Same holds true for closer-to-home-base hotels in Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle-East, even the Caribbean that cling on to their region-intense aromas, almost as a trademark. However, if you move up the profile ladder, you will find more discerning brands choosing spiffier scents to establish their presence in the space they inhabit.

I remember getting my senses massaged by the bespoke smell that seemed to envelope the lobby of The Pierre in New York and travelled deep into the crevices of my suite. I also remember getting my head sent into a spin by the overwhelming smell of freshly baked Brioche that seemed to be the resident scent of Hotel Tivoli Etoile off the Arc de Triomphe in the heart of Paris.

Several top of the line hotel chains worldwide have developed a signature scent that spells out the uniqueness of their brand and as a Unique Impressionistic Proposition, helps them stand out from the competition. Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts welcome guests with a ginger-and-bergamot-infused room fragrance called Essence of Shangri-La that is held consistently across the chain. Starwood Hotels & Resorts have used signature smell as an intra-brand profiling strategy. Hence, if Bling tells your nose that you will be staying at their uber-luxury Brand ‘W’, then warmth-inducing cinnamon apple pie aroma at the Four Points assures you that you are in the cradle of comfort. Omni Hotels & Resorts have earmarked a space-wise smell for their hotels. So, if you are in the lobby then lemongrass greets you; their Coffee shops are redolent with the aroma of cookies, while the poolside is suffused with a refreshing coconut-ty trail. The famed Le Bristol Paris is ambrosially scented with, what else, its namesake fragrance that is reminiscent of the 85 year-old hotel's Parisian gardens with cut grass, freesia, lily of the valley and white rose.

The Park Hyatts have zeroed on a distinctive fragrance for their variously located properties as an individual signature – so, if it is sandalwood for Park Hyatt Paris then PH Washington has chosen patchouli, violet and rose. The swanky and stylish PH Milan has roped in the expertise of famous perfumer, Laura Tonatto, to develop a special scent which is a deft and delicate mix of amber, vanilla extract, orange blossom and musk.

The Indian behemoth, Oberoi Hotels & Resorts uses Jasmine for the overriding whiff that welcomes its guests from the time guests are offered hot and cold towels in the hotel limousine through the time they stay in the luxurious havens of the Group. Four Seasons’ George V in Paris uses "Ambre du Nepal." Raffles, Singapore, that grand leader of the pack on numerable counts, is clouded under the ethereal waft of Frangipani developed by Fragonard.

For the guests, it is a great reminiscing of a fantastic hotel stay or vacation; for the hotels it is one of the finest ways to stay on top-of-the-mind of their guests in the nicest and most non-intrusive way possible.

Picture courtesy - Google Images