Visit York | Press office


In 2014 we created the UK’s first scented travel guidebook for Visit York. And it turned out we were onto something of a winner, with this humble little guidebook packed full of smells of York becoming an overnight international media sensation.

The free ‘olfactory guidebook’, entitled Smell York, featureed photographs of some of York’s most iconic attractions, with every image scientifically infused with a nose-tingling bouquet of complementary smells.

Included among the bouquet of aromas were the evocative scents of coal, steam and oil from the golden age of York’s railways, an elegant afternoon tea, the smells of horses galloping to the finish line at York Racecourse, the fresh fragrance of wild heather growing on the world-famous North York Moors and even the paranormal pong of bad eggs, associated with one of York’s smelliest ghosts!

All in all the guidebook received 107 pieces of coverage with a reach exceeding 104 million. Coverage was incredibly well-messaged and on-target with large pieces in The Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Guardian. Broadcast coverage included ITV News, The One Show, BBC 2 The Travel Show and several regional TV channels and radio stations.

Substantial global coverage followed, with newspapers, magazines, onlines and broadcast shows all over the world covering Smell York including The New York Times, ABC’s food show The Chew, Gizmodo, France’s second-largest newspaper La Figaro and its cookery show Avis De Tendance, ABC Australia, Vancouver Sun, Today Singapore and Russian lifestyle magazine Afisha Mir.

The first-run of 200 copies was snapped up within hours. Visit York’s Visitor Centre received a deluge of enquiries while online requests were flooding in from all over the world. Demand was so high that even the second print-run was sold out within 24 hours. Visit York received hundreds of emails from the global public not only praising the idea, but saying they would be adding York to their list of must-visit places.

Overall, the idea contributed to a 7% increase in visitor numbers to major York tourist attractions (all of which featured in the scented guidebook) in the period immediately after the campaign went live. The campaign also helped contribute to a 15% increase in traffic to Visit York’s website.

The publication quickly went viral on social media too, with 1,027 Twitter feeds sharing the story, resulting in a reach of 1,942,121 worldwide. One article on the Mail Online was shared 5,892 times.

The unprecedented popularity of Smell York has led Visit York to now retail the book permanently through its Visitor Information Centre and website ( taking the idea beyond a PR tactic, to a fully fledged publication.

The success of the story has seen Visit York lauded by the public, media and travel industry, with the CEO of Visit England praising such a simple yet effective idea, whose physical, tactile nature as a printed publication was a breath of fresh air in the face of the increasing digitalisation of travel content. The guidebook has also turned heads at PR awards, being nominated for multiple awards including CIPR Excellence Awards and PRCA Awards.

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