UK Cruise Operator Saga Reports Higher Level of Cancellations

Saga's Spirit of Discovery (file image courtesy @PuertosPR)

Published Mar 5, 2020 7:13 PM by The Maritime Executive

UK cruise and tour operator Saga reported Thursday that it is seeing elevated numbers of cancellations due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, but other business factors remain solid. 

"For our cruise business, bookings until recently have been very strong," Saga said. "While we have seen a higher level of cancellations for departures in the near-term and more generally a lower level of bookings for departures further out, our two most recent departures had load factors of around 80 percent. The cruise business continues to only depart and return to UK ports and we have flexibility on destinations visited."

Saga's non-cruise, shoreside holiday business has seen a larger decline, with increased cancellations, less demand and a 20 percent fall in forward passenger bookings versus the prior year.

Saga is also an insurer, and it says that it has seen a "robust start" to the year in insurance, both in retail broking and in underwriting. Among other products, it writes travel insurance policies for people of all ages; travel insurance is in demand due to the coronavirus outbreak, especially the “cancel for any reason” policy variant. 

"The evolution of COVID-19 and the impact this will have on full year earnings for 2020/21 cannot be predicted with any certainty at the current time," Saga cautioned. "While our travel business will be impacted, the group expects the performance and cash generation of the insurance business to be largely unaffected."

Like other cruise and travel brands, Saga's share price has been heavily affected by the coronavirus epidemic, falling by about 56 percent since the beginning of the year.