Travel Agents

How this agency absolutely nailed ‘travel inspiration’

Hannah Edensor

French rail company, Thalys, is doing things a little differently to inspire travel. Ok, a lot differently. And it started with a pop-up travel agency.

For the past six years, the company has served up its ‘Welcome to our World’ series, inviting travellers to get acquainted with destinations.

Two years ago, it ran a sound campaign called ‘Sounds of the City’, and this year, they’ve delivered ‘Scents of the City’.

Yep, Thalys got a bunch of curious travellers attending a pop-up travel agency, sniffing their way through 64 different parts of Europe. Visitors could sample 16 specially-blended aromas, each from four cities: Paris, Brussels, Cologne and Amsterdam.

They included “A real French breakfast,” the smell of a buttered tartine in a Parisian café, “Latexxx”, the latex odor from the Sex Museum in Amsterdam and “Moments after Mass,” the blended scent of Cologne Cathedral.

Each scent was enclosed in a tube, arranged by colour and with its own number, which referred to a specific site. Visitors were invited to sniff around, before the numbers revealed on large maps which part of the city they were inhaling.

The pop-up travel agency, created by French agency Rosapark, ran from May 12-14 in Brussels, with Thalys cleverly picking the smells based on where their rail services could take them.

A tablet-equipped hostess helped people to book trips on the spot, as well as providing more insight on the destinations and ideal times to visit each region.

“2015 and 2016 were tough years for tourism in this part of Europe,” Jean-François Sacco, co-founder and ECD of Rosapark, told AdWeek.

“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.

“After Thalys ‘Sounds of the City’ two years ago, we wanted to continue with the sensorial platform. It’s a unique, ownable platform that allows us to present the destinations on the Thalys network in a unique way.

“Scents always seemed like a natural follow-up. The only question was, which form would it take? We took the idea in many directions until we came back to one that was simple and obvious—a travel agency.”

With “Scents of the City,” Thalys aims to “take away the fear of travel and replace it with the classic romance of travel,” Sacco added.

“Reinvent the images of the cities in the Thalys network, just as we did two years ago with ‘Sounds of the City.’ And continue to present two sides of Thalys cities—both the iconic and the little known.”

 

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