What does Tampa Bay smell like? Pirates and cigars, apparently.

Visit Tampa Bay will use a new signature scent while promoting the area as a tourist destination.
Aerial photo of Downtown Tampa overlooking the Tampa Riverwalk and Hillsborough River from April 13, 2022.
Aerial photo of Downtown Tampa overlooking the Tampa Riverwalk and Hillsborough River from April 13, 2022. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published June 22, 2023|Updated June 22, 2023

TAMPA — The Tampa Bay area has a bevy of aromas, good and bad.

Ybor City’s Seventh Avenue boasts the scents of cigars and coffee and Pinellas County’s beaches smell of salt water.

Locals likely recognize the stench of red tide a mile away, sometimes literally, or the damp odor that warns of a coming summer storm.

But now, Tampa Bay has an official signature scent, well, at least according to Visit Tampa Bay, which is the tourism arm of Hillsborough County. It’s called Tampa Bay Sunrise and Visit Tampa Bay believes that the fragrance can further promote area tourism.

“The sense of smell affects about 75% of emotions and plays an important role in memories and perceptions,” Visit Tampa Bay CEO Santiago Corrada said. “So, we thought, if we’re at a trade show where we are showing great images and videos of the destination, let’s add some scent to it.”

He envisions local tourist destinations using it, too. Then, when a visitor later smells something similar, they will recall their trip to Tampa Bay and want to return.

The scent is a “sweet blend of afternoon tea, rose petals and sweet vanilla combined with subtle notes of golden sandalwood supported by creamy amber and a musk base note,” according to the media release by Air Esscentials, which created Tampa Bay Sunrise.

And how exactly does that represent Tampa Bay?

The musky smell comes from “a subtle hint of tobacco,” said Marc Levy, the executive vice president of the Miami-based Air Essentials, and golden sandalwood represents pirates, as in “pirate’s gold.”

The other fragrances are meant to provide the sense of comfort and relaxation that can be found while vacationing in Tampa Bay, Corrada said.

Related: What’s that smell? At Tampa’s airport, hotels, it’s not your imagination

This is called scent marketing, Corrada said, and he expects the impact to be on par with his agency’s other endeavors, such as wrapping another city’s Ubers with advertisements and releasing a cookbook that promotes the area’s restaurants and signature dishes.

Scent marketing is not new, Levy said. “Anyone who has been to Las Vegas knows that every casino has a signature scent. So do hospitals, retail stores, just about any space you can imagine, because smell has an amazing effect on the way that we feel and our memory.”

Air Esscentials has created the signature scents of the St. Petersburg Airport and is also behind the official smell of Miami, which its website says represents the sun, sea and spirit of the South Florida city.

The scent was developed for free and then sold to Visit Tampa Bay.

For now, through atomizers, Tampa Bay Sunrise can be smelled locally inside Visit Tampa Bay’s offices and their Unlock Tampa Bay Visitors Center, both at 201 N. Franklin St. So far, the department has spent $3,000 on three atomizers and the fragrance to put in them.

But candles and room sprays will ultimately be available, Corrada said, “so that you can actually take that memory, that experience of Tampa Bay home with you.”