Creating a Sensory Guest Experience!

In my therapy practice, I use a grounding technique I call 5-4-3-2-1. I instruct anxious, dissociated, dysregulated, or stressed clients to pan the room, the full extent their necks will allow their heads to turn, and list out loud:

-5 things that they see with their eyes

-4 things they hear with their ears

-3 things they feel, not emotionally, but sensate

-2 things they smell

-1 thing they taste.

This simple exercise engages all five senses, grounds them in their bodies, and roots them in the present moment, right here-and-now leaving behind stress and anxiety.

#12 rift valley historic farmhouse view

One of the reasons I love international travel is because my anxiety levels are very low when I am on an adventure. I attribute part of this fact to being in a state of intense sensory stimulation while traveling that keeps me grounded in the present moment. Travel is a feast for the senses: scenery, colors, native tongues, music, textiles, chicken buses, tuktuks, stench, spices, foods, and flavors, newness all around.

It is long supported that human sensory experiences are linked to memory. What small details does your vacation rental offer to create a signature sensory memory in the mind of guests? Yes of course the view, the clean bathroom, but how about other small sensory experiences beyond sight? How do you tickle your guests’ sense of smell, delight their sense of taste, excite their sense of touch, and arouse their sense of hearing?

#12 butchering chicken for dinner (1)

I have had the pleasure of experiencing several sensate charms that I have carried with me around the globe:

-The smell of the fresh milled soap at Grand Tikal Futura in Guatemala City, our Spanish was not that great and we were asking the housekeeper for “más sopa, más sopa?” translated more soup, not more soap! We wanted a few extras to take home with us!

-The fresh squeezed, room temperature orange juice offered on a silver tray while waiting to check-in at La Inmaculada in Zona 10 in Guatemala City.

-The chunky, not too sweet, owner made jams served for breakfast at El Tesoro del Elqui in Pisco Elqui, Chile.

-All of the crazy sounds coming out of an antique kalliope music box played by the owner at the Cedar Beach Inn, in Door County, WI.

-Butchering a chicken for dinner at the Historic Farmhouse in Rift Valley, Gilgil, Kenya. I got to see the chicken’s ovary and all of the eggs soon to be released, interesting stuff!

As a vacation rental owner, you want guests to remember their stay with you, for booking return visits or to recommend your property to others. You want guests to leave behind stress and anxiety, be grounded in the beauty of their vacation and your amazing rental. Are you thoughtfully offering guests experiences that touch all five of their senses multiple times over?

This post was written by Cori Hildebrandt, avid traveler and psychotherapist.

Cori Hildebrandt