Saga in profit as cruises catch on again

·2 min read
Saga Saga Cruises' Spirit of Discovery (Jackson Thakker / Saga)
Saga Saga Cruises' Spirit of Discovery (Jackson Thakker / Saga)

Specialist travel and financial services business Saga marked a return to profitability as the over-fifties flocked back to cruise holidays.

The company said cruise bookings reached 73% of capacity in July, and bookings for the 2023/24 season had reached 34%, exceeding expectations.

However, the company warned that bookings for its cruises to the Baltics and Black Sea had fallen amid concerns over the conflict in Ukraine.

It expected to generate pre-tax profits of £35 million to £50 million in the year to 31 January 2023, as it cut down its debt facility from £100 million to £50 million.

The firm’s travel insurance business made a recovery in line with pre-pandemic performance, while its motor and home insurance fell 9% below the previous year after a drop off in new customers.

Saga announced a number of new appointments to its board, including ITV chair Sir Peter Bazalgette and Gemma Godfrey — former boardroom adviser to Arnold Schwarzenegger on the US Apprentice show — as well of the creation of a new chief data officer role to analyse customer data.

Saga boss Euan Sutherland said: “These appointments, covering Personal Finance, Media and Data, will allow us to step-change our ability to scale this business.”

Saga shares fell 2.8% in early trading.

The boom in cruises comes after a tumultuous period for the industry. In January, Miami-based Crystal Cruises suspended operations after parent company Genting Hong Kong collapsed.

In 2020, Saga completed a £150 million capital raise to shore up its balance sheet after coronavirus lockdowns decimated its holiday business. The over-50s specialist posted a pre-tax loss of £61 million in the year to 31 January 2021 after its cruise vessels were unable to sail.

Founded in 1951, Saga was listed on the London Stock Exchange in May 2014. Its share price has fallen more than 90% over the past five years.

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