Saga names new ship as travel division profits rise 10%

Saga Cruises today revealed that its new cruise ship will be named Spirit of Discovery.

The vessel will carry less than 1,000 passengers and will have more than 100 cabins for solo travellers, 20% of the ship’s capacity.

The ship will be delivered in summer 2019 and will be built by the German Meyer Werft shipyard.

The details emerged as Saga Group reported a 9.7% hike in 2016 pre-tax profits to £176.2 million.

The over-50s specialist reported a “robust trading performance” for 2018 departures, with bookings up by 8% year-on-year.

The travel division handled 211,000 holidaymakers in 2016 as pre-tax profit rose by 10.4% to £14.9 million.

“Our new target is to grow profit before tax in the travel business by four to five times over the next five years,” Saga revealed.

It expects to stretch its target of doubling earnings from travel to £40 million one year early by the end of 2018.

Tour operating pre-tax profit for 2016 increased by 32% to £11.5 million while the cruise division performance was affected by a £5 million impact of scheduled maintenance to the ship Saga Sapphire.

“Our travel business has excellent visibility due to our customers’ propensity to book holidays far in advance,” chief executive Lance Batchelor said.

“In both tour operating and cruising, we have already secured the substantial majority of our full year 2018 sales targets.

“Reservations for departures in FY 2018 as at 18 March 2017 are 8% ahead of the comparable reservation position one year ago.

“As previously noted in our post-Brexit poll, less than 1% of our customers said that they were reconsidering their future holiday plans as a result of the referendum result, and general economic confidence amongst our customers remains strong.”

Saga Cruises chief executive Robin Shaw said: “The name Spirit of Discovery evokes the adventurous nature and new experiences that cruise customers desire.

“Key to the whole design process has been our customer insight. We know they want to experience new things in a luxurious, small ship environment.

“Our new ship’s itineraries will take customers to fresh, new destinations and will include more overnight stays in key ports.”

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