Sensory studies arises at the conjuncture (and within) the fields of anthropology • sociology • history • archeology • geography • communications • religion • philosophy • literature • art history • museology • film • mixed media • performance • phenomenology • disability • aesthetics • architecture • urbanism • design

Sensory Studies can also be divided along sensory lines into, for example, visual culture, auditory culture (or sound studies), smell culture, taste culture and the culture of touch, not to mention the sixth sense (however it might be defined)

Picture Gallery » Sensory Tourism

Sensory Tourism

Sensory Tourism

Sensory Tourism

A recent tourist brochure for Vienna proposes “A Journey Through Time For All The Senses.” The cover displays a very contemporary Viennese young lady posed against the backdrop of the giant Ferris Wheel in the Vienna Prater. She is dressed not in a dirndl but a red track suit. Her hair is not blonde and in braids, but jet black and somewhat tousled. She has one hand (provocatively) on a hip, while the other frames her face — a lovely impish face with a bemused smile. This image is juxtaposed to four boxes: the first contains a picture of an ornate crown, the second a shot of the spires of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the third a portrait of Mozart, and the fourth box bears the inscription “Vienna waits for you.”

Inside the brochure is a montage of more images which juxtapose the bygone and the trendy. This theme of juxtaposition is elaborated further in the text of the brochure:

Arts & Delights: Between Austro-Hungarian Nostalgia And The Latest Trends.

Move A Little Closer To Art, But Stay In The Groove All The While.

The suggestion is that there is something for all ages, as well as all the senses. The prospective tourist is further invited to:

DISCOVER …. The charm of a wintry Vienna between the Magic of Advent, the New Year’s Trail, the Vienna Dream on Ice … and the ball season …

EXPERENCE …Klimt’s famous ‘Kiss’ and other beautiful women in the Austrian gallery of Belvedere Palace, the summer residence of ‘noble’ knight Prince Eugene of Savoy …

ENJOY … the traditional Viennese coffee-house. It’s a great place to relax, chat, read the paper, eat cake – and of course drink coffee. The coffee is so good because genuine spring water from the Alps flows from the taps in Vienna!

This brochure is typical of the recent trend towards multisensory marketing which is characteristic of the “experience economy” of late consumer capitalism. This sensory turn, as manifest in the Vienna tourist brochure, reflects the extent to which the traditional practice of sight-seeing has been eclipsed by the strategy of engaging all five senses and inducing a state of what could be called “hyperaesthesia” in the prospective consumer. No sense is left unturned in the experience economy, if there is a chance to turn a profit from its commercialization (Howes 2004, 2011). A fascinating study could be done of the enlistment of the five senses in advertising and marketing campaigns promoting different tourist destinations, such as Kerala (Banerjee) or Greece (Anon.), to cite but two fairly typical recent examples of the sensory turn in tourism.

David Howes, Concordia Sensoria Research Team


Howes, David. 2004. “Hyperaesthesia, or The Sensual Logic of Late Consumer Capitalism,” in D. Howes, ed., Empire of the Senses: The Sensual Culture Reader, Oxford: Berg.

Howes, David. 2011. “Vienna: Sensory Capital.” Pages 63-76 in Madalina Diaconu et al (eds.), Senses and the City. An Interdisciplinary Approach to Urban Sensescapes, Berlin: LIT Verlag.

Banerjee, Rohini, “Sensory Spa: Kerala.”
Sensory Spa

Greek Tourism Organization, “Greece- Explore Your Senses.” On
Explore Your Senses

Comments are closed.