ATLANTIC CITY--When a wedding party congregated at the Claridge Hotel in October, the front desk offered them a parting whiff: the smell of the lobby.
It was a mesh bag of fragrant beads described as a citrus floral aroma with notes of tea and fig.
It’s also the same smell that a small machine on a lobby wall diffuses throughout the day.
The 85-year-old Boardwalk hotel in the past month began using scents through North Carolina-based ScentAir in its lobby and elsewhere, trying to tie the olfactory experience into its brand.
This type of scent branding has become a growing part of a decades-old evolution of how hotels, casinos and retailers approach the power of smell, said Jennifer Dublino, spokeswoman for the Scent Marketing Institute, a Scarsdale, New York-based industry group.
“When we process smell it’s very emotional. If we go on vacation and have a lovely time, there’s a smell that reminds us,” she said.
Casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City have long employed this approach. So have hotels. Even some retailers and banks deliberately use aromas to make their businesses more appealing, to encourage customers to stay longer and spend more, or to remember them and want to come back.
“People can ignore the lighting, they can ignore the furniture, they can ignore everything, but they can’t ignore the smell,” said Ryan Schloss, of Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, account executive with ScentAir. “They just can’t. When they walk in it just captures them.”
Las Vegas in the early 1980s was where the scent industry took shape in earnest, Dublino said.
The reason: the stench of cigarette smoke, she said.
“They found people spent a lot more gambling when it smelled better,” she said. “It expanded into the hotel industry and it’s quite prevalent now in hospitality in general and in casinos.”
It has become a $300 million a year global industry that is growing rapidly in Asia and Latin America, she said.
“Some places use it as an olfactory logo, they create with an accompanying signature scent they feel encapsulates the brand and every time people come to that location, there’ s very strong branding association,” she said.
The Claridge incorporating that approach in its broader effort to incorporate Scent Air aromas through its lobby, theater, lounge and nightclub.
A. Cem Erenler, the general manager of about 10 months, said scents were a part of other hotels where he worked, and he wanted them at the 500-room hotel.
“Any wine connoisseur knows you will get more taste by smelling, sniffing the wine other than putting them in your mouth to taste them,” Erenler said.
There are several distinct aromas that vary by what the location is used for.
At Malcolm’s Lounge, is “Sandalwood Fire,” which Erenler said has “a woody smell, with some masculinity in the scent.”
In the nightclub and entertainment spaces is “Black Mink,” which includes jasmine, vanilla, musk and other scents.
Schloss said scents can be intensified in areas like nightclubs where there are sweat and alcohol odors to battle.