IAG sits down with Dave Smith, Director at Macau-based fragrance supplier Asiul Trading Co Ltd, to discuss his career and the important role fragrances play in today’s hotels and casinos.
Oscar Guijarro: Thanks for meeting with us Dave. Can you tell us about your background?
Dave Smith: I grew up in Scotland, UK, just outside Edinburgh in a small town called Linlithgow. I had a very normal upbringing, Mum being a teacher and Dad working in the specialist paper and board industry. Mum’s side of the family had an agricultural farm up in the Highlands near Inverness, so I spent most school holidays playing on tractors and quad bikes up there which was great fun back in the day.
OG: Did you have any specific career path in mind at that time?
DS: With all those fun holidays at the farm, growing up a farmer was what I wanted to be, however as I got older I realized there is not much money in farming and I get bored in the countryside, so that plan was scrapped.
My Dad travelled a lot in his line of work and I was always fascinated by his work trips stories such as having armed guards while visiting factories in places like Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria, the strange meals he had at banquets in China and watching the Super Bowl in the middle of the USA. That’s why a job in sales that meant not being stuck in an office was my main priority by my late teens.
OG: Can you tell us about your business and what you do?
DS: Asiul is a family business. It was founded in Macau in 1993 by my grandparents, Ian and Marisa. The name “Asiul” if spelt backwards is “Luisa” which is my grandmother’s middle name. The whole concept came around as Marisa was a professional aroma therapist who trained in Paris and my grandfather was a bit of an entrepreneur in London so they came up with the concept of producing high end, pure essential oil products for 5-star hotels and spas.
Marisa is Spanish born and speaks Portuguese, their main target market was the hotel capital of the world at the time, Hong Kong, so Macau was the perfect base.
They expanded the business over the years to include natural spa treatments, essential oil blends and housekeeping products. Because our products were unique and so well liked, as hotel staff moved around the world they would regularly take our product range with them. As a result, we have customers globally now.
I came over to Macau in 2007 to join the family business. About five years ago we partnered with another local Macau business, Green Breeze Ambient, which enabled us to grow the technology side of the scent industry and provide scenting solutions for huge areas such as casino floors, hotel lobbies, shopping centers and cruise ships down to smaller requirements such as hotel rooms, office spaces and bespoke retail items.
OG: So this is what brought you to Macau in the first place?
DS: I had always loved coming to Macau to visit on holiday and would sometimes accompany my grandfather to visit some customers and see a factory or warehouse when here, and I just fell in love with the idea of working in the family business. I am quite a driven individual and could really see huge potential not just in the expanding city of Macau but the industry as a whole.
I wasn’t just allowed out on the road though. Marisa was very adamant I wasn’t seeing any customers until I had a real understanding of the essential oil, spa and fragrance world, so for months it was all about training and getting a real understanding of the products. We import all our oils for the country of manufacture and direct from source so we know exactly where our materials come from. For example, all our citrus oils come direct from South Africa, lavender from Spain and eucalyptus from Australia.
OG: What value does a corporate scent add to a large operation like an integrated resort?
DS: The scent upon entering a building is key to your customer experience. It is a fact that of the five human senses, smell is the first one that triggers in the brain. So you can spend billions on a property, but if the customer walks in and it smells musty or smoky, their brain instantly associates the venue as being dirty or low class.
Conversely, you can make an area that may not be so inviting seem much more pleasant with a nice, uplifting fragrance.
Also, scent is easily stored and triggers memories in the human brain. If, for example, you have multiple properties and resorts that use your “signature” scent, the customer will immediately know where they are. This can help them feel more comfortable in their surrounds and stay longer.
It can even be an added revenue stream. You would not believe how many hotel guests ask where they can purchase the lobby scent! One of our long-term clients in Taiwan has actually opened a shop in the lobby selling their fragrance in a take home format, purely based on the number of guests who wanted to purchase it on check-out after we implemented it in all public areas.
OG: How has your perception of Macau changed over the years?
DS: This question would be answered very differently if you asked Marisa. She misses being able to park the car in San Malo to go to the Post Office and the evening events at the Bela Vista on the hill. For me, I love seeing new and exciting changes literally every month – new venues, restaurants, public services. For me, Macau is going in the right direction and is an incredibly exciting place to live and be based.
OG: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
DS: This is an easy one for me. It can take months, if not years, to develop signature scents, alongside countless meetings, amendments by the perfumers and trials to get final approval, but when you walk into a client’s lobby or gaming floor and experience the fragrance, and see other people doing the same, it really does make you smile.
OG: What do you like to do to relax when you are not working?
DS: Well, being Scottish I like nothing more than a beer and watching some live sport at the weekends. I am probably Macau’s biggest (and maybe only) Everton fan. I have also been the President of the Macau Lightning AFL team for the past seven years. This has been a life changing experience for me. I’ve met so many great and lifelong friends and travelled around Asia playing tournaments and games.