By Vishwadha Chander
– British over-50s holidays group Saga Plc said on Monday it would likely resume its cruises on June 27, encouraged by high demand for tours despite repeated lockdowns and echoing similar projections from other cruise operators.
A year after several cruise ships were hit by major coronavirus outbreaks, cruise lines including Royal Caribbean Group and Carnival Corp have been pushing ahead with plans to resume cruises this summer, especially as large numbers of Americans get vaccinated.
As demand for tours picks up, bookings should represent 60% of Saga’s revenue targets for 2021/22, it said.
Saga had back-up plans to deal with any uncertainty around COVID-19 restrictions, including running cruises for a shorter period with fewer guests if necessary.
The company said Tesco executive Steve Kingshott will take over as its insurance chief executive in the autumn, replacing Cheryl Agius who was appointed in 2019.
Saga’s motor and home policy sales were 2% behind for the four months to May 31 from last year. Travel policies year-to-date sales were 5% below a year ago.
Last year Saga rebuffed what it called an unsolicited and highly conditional 33 pence a share indicative approach for the company from a consortium of two U.S. financial investors.
The insurance business had to some extent offset the pandemic hit to travel, as the company paid out fewer motor insurance claims during the lockdowns, and analysts expect Kingshott’s appointment to increase the division’s momentum.
“Insurance provides the main earnings support and we welcome the new CEO of the division,” Peel Hunt analysts said in a note.
The next phase of reopening in Britain, which was initially set for June 21, is expected to be delayed on concerns about the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
Through the lockdowns, however, Saga said 73% of cancelled cruise bookings were retained, and that customer retention in tours was stable at 42%.
Its shares edged 0.6% lower to 408 pence by 0826 GMT, barely denting the more than 60% gain so far in the year.