A DAY out at a theme park can be a real assault on the senses – but perhaps more so than you actually realise.
While the breakneck speed and the terrifying drops on a rollercoaster can be scary enough, there are often other forces at play, toying with our emotions.
Liam R. Findlay is a themed smell consultant and creates scents for smell experts AromaPrime – a company that specialises in producing odours for attractions.
He revealed how he makes smells that enhance our experience of both rides and attractions, often without us even knowing about it, with some smells even used to play tricks on us.
He told Sun Online Travel: “The smell receptors are connected to the part of the brain that processes memories and emotions. It’s a really direct link that the other senses can’t really achieve.
“You can sniff something and it can transport you back to a memory and the emotions that you had when you experienced that originally, before you even realise what’s happening.
“It adds an extra immersive dimension so when you include all the different senses it just makes the storytelling more convincing and real to the visitors.”
Liam’s smells have been used to enhance guest experiences on rollercoasters, in mazes and even in Madame Tussauds, where he has made scents for both Kylie Minogue and the Queen.
He explained how the use of different smells can have different effects on visitors – including lulling them into a false sense of security.
He said: “You can play psychological tricks – maybe you want to use cookie smells in a shop to entice people in, or you could trigger their fears by using familiar and unpleasant smells like vomit that everyone’s going to have horrible memories associated with, to build discomfort.
Most read in Travel
“For example, the smell of a dentist’s chair is used at Thorpe Park which is great for triggering people’s fears and helps create a feeling of unease.
“You could get even more sophisticated and use a pleasant smell like cookies that’s going to bring comfort to people but then use that to make a false sense of security.
“People will smell that and feel lovely, but then they’ll turn a corner and see something terrible and it’s kind of a shock.”
One of AromaPrime’s best known smells features on a famous ride at Alton Towers.
In fact, the fragrance is so well loved by theme park enthusiasts that many of them actually bought some samples during coronavirus lockdowns when they weren’t able to go on the rides.
Liam said: “Our most iconic smell in the UK is on The Wicker Man roller coaster at Alton Towers, which has a kind of fiery ritualistic smell.
“When all the attractions closed during lockdown, we had loads of theme park fans buying loads of woodsmoke and it kind of helped us get through the lockdown.
“We had this kind of unexpected turn where it was the customers of our customers who became the main people that were buying or smells.
“They were also buying the horrible things, like the torture chamber smell from London Dungeon and stuff. Just because they wanted to transport themselves back to these fun days out that they couldn’t go on at the time.”
For Liam, the most interesting smells are the more gruesome ones, with bodily waste playing a big part in his work.
While many people wouldn’t want to be surrounded by such smells all day, Liam said he is used to it.
He said: “I’m definitely really interested in horrible historical smells mostly because of the stories they can tell.
“I don’t think there’s any smell that’s too offensive for us. I’m probably kind of immune to bad smell as at this point in my life.
“Overall, we genuinely would do any smell – we’ve already got a website full of different varieties of poo and there’s not much we’ll say no to.
“There was an attraction in the town I grew up in called the Time Walk that had the smell of the plague that was actually made by AromaPrime
“The whole town seems to have fond memories of that plague smell and whenever anyone brings up the Time Walk they’ll mention the smell and say they remember it.
“Which might be strange to people that aren’t from the town, but we’ve all got fond memories of that disgusting smell.”
For anyone interested in smelling more from Liam and AromaPrime they will be at the IAAPA Europe Expo at ExCeL, London in September.
Liam revealed that they have designed a “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory smell factory display” as well as “lots of fun interactive things”.
An expert has revealed how to skip long queues at theme parks.
These little-known UK attractions will offer family fun away from queues this summer.