a emergency entrance to a building

Hotels should NEVER be doing this!

Last week, I was at the W Austin, a very expensive, very chic hotel. The W, including many other hotels, are doing something extremely inconsiderate, that not only ruins that stay, but an entire trip.

After spending the night, I woke up with a horrible rash and breathing difficulties. I found out that the hotel sprays the room after cleaning with a perfume, one that can even be purchased. I am extremely allergic to fragrances. Caress and Steinemann (2009) found that 30.5% of the US population has a fragrance intolerance. Luxury hotels, or really any hotel, should not be spraying perfumes into a room when such a high percentage of the popular has fragrance sensitivities, and a culture of no-perfume settings is immerging (i.e. no-fragrance workplaces). This condition is not rare or unknown, and hotels should be responding accordingly.

With this rash, my entire face and body was covered in severe dermatitis, and extremely itchy hives. It caused breathing difficulties, which resulted in a need for medical intervention. This rash has lasted for days, and has “ruined” my trip. All so the hotel room would smell a little more pleasant.

My neck after the W Austin’s perfume

I understand that my reaction is abnormal. I am highly sensitive to fragrances. However, with such a high percentage of the population experiencing some sort of reaction to fragrances, I don’t understand how spraying it in a hotel room is worthwhile. When you literally roll in the perfume overnight, a mild sensitivity may turn into a substantial reaction.

There is no way to opt-out of the fragrance on the SPG website when making your booking, nor is there a conspicuous warning that perfumes are used. Had I known, I would have called the property to try and opt-out.

So, what should be done? Hotels should never be using sprayed perfumes in their hotel rooms (I’d advocate that this be extended to bath products, laundry detergents, etc., but I’m happy to start this “campaign” with small goals). If that hotel absolutely cannot do-away with perfumes, they should provide a clear and conspicuous warning to guests that perfumes are used, and provide a complimentary opt-out (I’ve seen some hotels offer a surcharge for hypoallergenic rooms).

Remember that although a perfume can smell pleasant, for many people (30.5%!), that smell hurts others.


  1. We have a no-fragrance workplace policy, but my colleague viciously violates this policy – especially after a burrito lunch!

  2. If I walk into a hotel room with a perfume or other scent that stands out I wonder what they’re covering up?

  3. As someone who is extremely scent sensitive. I would be in the hospital with a migraine headache from the smell. I wonder if the property would change their policy if they had to pay medical bills from negligence on the fragrance policy.

  4. I just had a similar experience. The scent was overwhelming upon entering the room. I, asked at once to be moved to another room, and they accommodated me by moving to a room with a barely perceptible musty smell. Not great, but better than having a sore throat the rest of the week, and being unable to sleep soundly.

  5. Hate perfumes. Have tried to get our office, County of San Diego government, to institute a no perfume or at least a warning in the policy. They won’t do it. Yet guys get talked to if they grow a long beard. The sneezing is off the chain by lots of people when the few offenders decide to take baths in their Obsession. Makes you want to work outdoors.

  6. One reason I stopped staying at Aloft. Too strong a scent. And gave up on Marriott with their scented sheets and carpets years ago! Hyatt seems to be the best fit for my allergies when traveling.

  7. 30% of the population has a perfume disability?! I knew people like to whine, but that number is a little high. Seems like the disabled person should be the one to be proactive, and not whine about the hotel. That’s why Hyatt sells hypoallergenic rooms.

  8. As a fellow Canadaian, we tend not to think of this option, but since this happened in the U.S. and presumably required treatment at a U.S. medical facility, I would send them the medical bill and demand compensation. If they don’t pay, engage one of those ambulance chasers!

  9. I have recently become aware that I wake with headache in Westins and Sheratons. It was brought to my awareness by the intensely strong scent in the Westin lobby and gym that caused headache within three minutes in Lobby. Now I’m see that when I wake with headaches it’s at those two brands. I’ve been traveling ten years so awareness takes time to come, like the torture of indoor smoking. Any groups advocating clean indoor air I can join?

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