Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was thinking about this blog post. I believe it pretty common knowledge that we have a scent memory (olfactory memory), which can transport us, in a very strong way, to a previous experience or place. If you care to read about the science behind this, here is an article.
This post took me a while to write because the affect of this phenomenon has subtly processed in my mind over time. There is a shelf in my bathroom with Bulgari (Bvlgari) soap, shampoo, and lotion. As I walk by it, I get a whiff of the soap, and I immediately think of my 15-day Panama Canal cruise on Norwegian Bliss. In some staterooms, NCL supplies passengers with these wonderful Bulgari products. The scent is magic, and I haven't taken the time to research anything about exactly what it contains. It has the same affect on me as tea olive, which stops me in my tracks each time I smell it. I can be walking and looking at my phone, or I can be annoyed about something, and the scent of tea olive brings me right to the present and reminds me that everything is going to be alright. The memory associated with that must be deeper than I can actually remember, because I don't know why it is such a special scent for me.
Back to the Panama Canal cruise: it was 15 amazing days, and it was as if I had moved to another town. The ship was the Norwegian Bliss, and it truly lived up to its name. The only thing I tired of was being filled with delicious food, as if that's a problem. I left that 15 days with a lifetime of memories, new friends from around the world, and the scent memory of Bulgari products. I don't use the products often, but if I am ever mourning the fact that I can't travel right now, the fragrance will give me a brief escape.
Another memory for me is from a week I spent at the Sagamore Pendry Baltimore. I was there for VCTA training (Virtuoso Certified Travel Advisor). The hotel is located on Recreation Pier in the Fell's Point neighborhood of Baltimore. It is a restored historic area of town, with cobblestone streets lined with shops and restaurants. I loved my room at the Sagamore Pendry, and since my days were filled with classes, it was a place for me to refresh and recharge when I was able to get away. The bath products in this hotel are from MiN New York (pictured above), and I ended up taking a bottle of the conditioner home (long story). The funny thing is that I don't even love the scent of these products, but when I occasionally use the conditioner, the fragrance takes me back to that fantastic shower in the Sagamore Pendry, the hotel where I learned a lot about life and being in the travel business, as well as where I connected with a new network of travel friends.
During this time of quarantine, I have arranged a few Zoom meetings to chat with my friends from Baltimore. It is a time for us to share our experiences of what it is like to be a new travel advisor during a time when no one can travel. Several of them are like me, and they were off to a good start; however, we are now faced with the task of cancelling or rescheduling every trip we had arranged for clients.
During one of our chats, two of the ladies were discussing the amazing fragrance they remembered from a hotel in Spain, so I went back and asked them to tell me more about that.
Jeanne Derderian of Largay Travel and Margret Brinson of McCabe World Travel stayed at Majestic Hotel in Barcelona on separate occasions, and they raved about the fragrance of that hotel as if it were a mutual friend. Jeanne spoke of her experience: "I mentioned to the BDM (Business Development Manager) at the majestic while she gave me a tour that I collect soaps, shampoos, etc from the hotels I stay at. Later that afternoon I found a bag full of goodies and a lovely note from her in my room! Every time I use the soap, I am transported back to my visit and how thoughtful she was."
Margret states, "For me, scent is incredibly evocative - Each time I use Musc Impérial, I am reminded of the deeply glamorous Majestic Hotel & Spa and the excitement of Barcelona. I believe that scent can be the best and most transportive souvenir of all!" Margret also encouraged me to contact Blanca, the Director of Sales & Marketing at the Majestic Hotel. She was happy to hear from me and hopes that this story can help people to dream and inspire future travel. Blanca informed me that the idea of the hotel's perfume came from Paschal Ballard, the hotel's General Manager. He wanted to created a unique scent that would link to the guests' memories. Although they normally source from local suppliers, they went to Paris for the best fragrance from Atelier Cologne. Initially, it was just a scent for the hotel, but it became so popular that they asked Atelier Cologne to create toiletries for the guest rooms. It can be purchased at the hotel, on their website, and I actually found that you can buy it at Sephora.
Inga Kalinichenko-Canatiempo, of WanderWild Travel mentioned that there are hotels she avoids because of their scent and continued by saying, "In general, toiletry brands at hotels are super important to me. In fact, when I consider boutique/unfamiliar properties for either my personal stay or clients' , I would look at the photos (their own website, TripAdvisor, etc) to see what brand of toiletries they use. If it's something high end or something I really like, it instantly adds to this hotel's credibility in my eyes. My personal favorites are Molton Brown, Malin+Goetz and Elemis."
Gina Marion, who works at About Going Places, told her story of Faena Hotel in Miami Beach: "Hotel scents are definitely a thing. Many luxury hotels sell their signature scents through candles, room sprays etc. I got this candle from Faena in Miami Beach. I have a lovely one from Belmond St Petersburg. I’ve been collecting them too. Hotel scents are separate from the fancy shampoos and soaps which I also love collecting. Next time you’re in a luxury hotel lobby, notice their signature scent. Inhale and enjoy. It’s all part of the sensory experience."
Candis Varnell, a Travel Advisor with Strong Travel Services, tells of her husband's pretty powerful experience in Jordan: "If you knew my husband you would know he is not emotional, nothing shakes him, very stoic, doesn't do self-expressing.😐However, on our trip to Jordan last June the smell in the hotel permeated his soul. He could not stop talking about it and even spent time contacting the owners of the hotel to learn where he could purchase the same smell to diffuse in our home! He says, "nothing will ever replace that smell!" We stayed at that hotel the first 3 nights of our trip. I honestly believe his senses were heightened because of travel and he has very fond memories of that hotel!!!!"
Gina Marion also provided me a link to this article, which discusses "The Growth of the Signature Scent," as well as what they call "scent branding." When I travel, I rarely buy souvenirs, and I consider my photographs to be my greatest souvenirs. When I am able to travel again, I will pay more attention to the scents I experience, and I will make an effort to take a small amount of that scent home with me, knowing that although a picture is worth a thousand words, a scent can stir up a different flurry of memories and emotions. As Margret said, "scent can be the best and most transportive souvenir of all!"