The digital world is so visual that it’s easy to forget that our guests have five senses, not just one. Of course, when a prospective guest looks at your listing on their computer screen, ideally you cater to their visual sense with attractive photos. But, when your guest arrives, their first impression isn’t limited to their sight.

When I was running the boutique hotel company that I started, Joie de Vivre, I discovered that we have about five minutes to influence a guest’s first impression when they walk into a hotel lobby—or, in Airbnb’s case, when they walk into your home or apartment for the first time. We learned that the best way to improve that first impression was to cater to all five of our guest’s senses, and to do so in ways that fit the overall theme of the property and its location.

Think of your own space. You might have a tranquil flat in London that’s near a park, and part of the way you market your listing is to suggest it’s a quiet refuge from the lovely urbanity of London. So, let’s look at how could you apply the “5 senses test” in a way that has your guest grinning and saying to themselves, “I made the right choice!”

First, the visuals you offer upon arrival, whether it’s beautiful art or a great-looking chair will help remind your guest of the great photos they saw in your online listing. But, better yet, why not have an aromatic arrangement of flowers, a burning aromatherapy candle, or—if your guest doesn’t mind scents—some subtle, natural, fragrant spray wafting in the entryway? Our sense of smell is our most powerful and memorable sense of the five senses we were gifted.


If you’re offering a tranquil flat, maybe you could have a little ambient or symphonic music playing when your guest arrives. And, to satisfy their taste buds, maybe there’s local treats or a big bowl of fresh fruit in the entry hallway or the kitchen.

Lastly, you get extra points if you come up with a tactile way to impress your guest’s sense of touch. In our hotels, we found that a natural throw blanket draped over the sofa or a chair offered a welcoming way for a guest to feel comfortable upon arriving.

Five minutes to satisfy the five senses. If you do this well, your guests will be telling their friends, “Wow, this place doesn’t just look good—it feels great.”

What sense-ational ways do you welcome guests? Please share!

Photo from Carolyn & Carlos’ oasis in London