Travel agencies usually rely on brochures and enticing images to sell destinations, but French rail company Thalys decided to take a different approach to inspiring travel with a campaign called ‘Scents of the City.’

It’s a well known fact that we’re inspired to buy when we smell certain scents. Think supermarkets and the smell of hot, fresh bread or the duty free shops at the airport where the lure of designer fragrances is hard to resist.

So what if travel agencies took that insight and used it in their stores to inspire more people to buy travel?


Mmm… Fragrances

That’s exactly what French rail company Thalys did as an experiment in ‘inspiring travel via the senses’.

First up, Thalys set up a pop-up travel agency in a gallery-style space that featured a number of coloured vials suspended from the ceiling.

Each tube was labelled with a number that corresponded to a place on a map in Europe on the Thalys network.

Users could smell hot buttered tartines in a Parisian café, a pipe for the Magritte Museum, the Cologne Cathedral… or even “Latexxx,” representing Amsterdam’s infamous Sex Museum.

A tablet-equipped Travel Agent then helped people book trips live, and provided more insight on the destinations and ideal times to travel.


Thalys are no stranger to multi-sensory marketing. Previously, it launched “Sounds of the City” to entice those with wanderlust to explore the rich audio environments of different locations around the globe.

To encourage people to use the train to go and explore nearby cities, Thalys created three interactive billboards. Each billboard represented a city, and each was host to more than 1000 unique sounds from that city.

Pedestrians were invited to plug in with their personal headphones and start exploring. Headphones are often used to block out a city. With Thalys Sounds of the City, they were an opportunity to rediscover one.

“2015 and 2016 were tough years for tourism in this part of Europe,” Sacco explains. “The images used in news reports about Thalys cities in 2015, 2016, particularly Brussels and Paris, were hardly positive – terrorism, violence. Using a different sense allows us wipe the slate clean to present the cities in a different light.”

Via Adweek.

What do you think? Could your travel environment be transformed with the power of scent? Or do you already have a beautiful smelling space?