Traversing Through Travel Ads: Messaging for Students and Silvers

Read our thoughts on Quilt.AI.

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Photo by Anurag Banerjee

Our travel preferences constantly evolve through life, based not only on how old we are and where we’re from, but also what we seek from travel at particular points in time.

Whether it’s a solo backpacking trip as a freshman or the quintessential world tour post-retirement, travel can be associated with a desire for discovery and exploration among the young and old alike.

Search data reveals that ‘Student Travel’ and ‘Senior Travel’ are trending in North America, Australia, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Poland, India, South Africa, and Japan.

The travel bug hasn’t spared us at Quilt.AI either. While we browsed through a handful of travel websites and deals to plan our December holidays, this also caught our attention: advertisements for two burgeoning groups of travelers- students and silvers (travelers above the age of 50).

We dug deeper and studied the similarities and differences in messaging in these advertisements by popular travel companies.

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Photo by Atikh Bana on Unsplash

Traveling is a moment of self-growth.

Traveling as a student is quite likely to be one’s first foray into traveling solo or with friends, free from the parental safety net. It is the extension of the Coming-of-Age experience that entails leaving home for college, living by yourself, and embracing adulthood.

We observed that ads for student travelers portrayed travel as a learning experience, with an equal emphasis on both the inner and outer journeys associated with traveling as a student.

Travel companies urge students to embark on “educational” and “life-changing” journeys, promising opportunities to see a different world, meet new people with shared interests, and for self-discovery.

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Photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash

Ads targeting students typically feature a single person amidst picturesque surroundings looking mesmerized, hinting at travel as an act of freedom, discovery, exploration, and reflection. Ads are also made to be playful, featuring quirky poses, catchy tag-lines, and puns to attract student travelers.

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Source: STA Travel

In contrast, we find that ads targeting silver travelers focus predominantly on the outer journey, with greater emphasis on the surroundings. Terminologies such as “lesser-known” and “exotic” are common, indicating that places and experiences that may have seemed out of reach in their youth, either due to paucity of money or time, can now be conquered.

Ads for silver travelers typically feature a couple, family, or a group of silver travelers, usually engaged in an activity- boat ride, hiking, mingling with local communities, looking at a map, hinting at shared experiences and enrichment.


Travel worries vary from wanting the best experience to wanting maximum comfort.

While silver travelers may have greater disposable income and time at hand for travel, young people these days have been found to increasingly value “experiences” over possessions, prioritizing and optimizing whatever resources and time they have to make room for travel.

Companies recognize this need and adapt accordingly: Ads for student travelers predominantly focus on cost and flexibility, offering cheap flight deals, options for date change, payment in installments, and other student-specific benefits.

On the other hand, ads for silver travelers focus on security and comfort, highlighting provisions like insurance, trustworthy and experienced tour guides, leisurely-paced itineraries, and luxurious yet affordable experiences.

Silver travelers are being urged towards adventure.

While it’s not surprising to find travel ads inviting students to experience adrenaline-inducing activities like glacier treks, ziplining and scuba diving on their travels, what we found interesting was that silver travelers too are promised “wild encounters”, “active travel” and “exotic adventures” by travel companies, inviting them to explore the unfamiliar and feel “alive” on their travels.

Embracing cultural immersion in travel

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Photo by Riku Lu on Unsplash

For both groups of travelers, ads emphasize the cultural immersion experience. For students, it’s about learning more about the world. For silver travelers, it’s to remind them to embrace lifelong learning, sparking curiosity to see, learn and try something new.

“Mystical” journeys to visit tribal communities with cultures drastically different from that of the student or silver traveler are quite popular, promising to provide travelers with a glimpse into people’s lives in other parts of the world.

Travel is forging connections.

A quintessential part of travel in the 21st century is, ironically, the desire to both “disconnect” and “connect”.

Travel gives the opportunity for a digital detox, particularly for student travelers who grew up in a hyper-connected world, making space for other kinds of connection- with nature, new friends, and self. For silver travelers, it’s pitched as an opportunity to connect (or reconnect) with their spouse, family or other silver travelers.

The photographs used by travel companies are representative of this trend. Aesthetically, ads for student travelers have a more Instagram-friendly vibe, focusing more on the public projection of the experience as being “a trip of a lifetime”.

In contrast, visuals used in itineraries for silver travelers have a less curated and more “family album” vibe.

Sum up: Our key points

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Photo by Júnior Ferreira on Unsplash

While the overarching message of ads for student travelers revolves around learning and self-discovery, for silver travelers it’s about treating oneself after lifelong work and bringing back the curiosity and energy of youth.

What seems to be common for both groups though is the desire to slow down time through travel.

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Quilt.AI creates culturally intelligent AI products to achieve impact at scale.

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