Saga has refunded £44 million to customers for cancelled holidays up until August.
The refunds mainly related to the over-50s group’s tour operations.
The “latest indication” is that delayed delivery of new ship Spirit of Adventure is expected by the end of October.
Saga’s advance cruise booking receipts at the end of May were £43 million, £5 million lower than at the end of March but described as being “well ahead of expectations”.
In a trading update to coincide with its annual meeting today (Monday), the group said it has retained more than 70% of advance bookings on cancelled cruise departures, and new bookings for next year have been “very positive”.
Saga described customer loyalty for its cruise business as “exceptional”.
The update follows completion of the sale of older ship Saga Sapphire on June 12 “on terms broadly in line with previous expectations”.
Saga said: “The group has been working with industry bodies and the government to establish operational practices that would enable a return of operations in both tour and cruise businesses as the current restrictions are lifted.
“The group’s new mid-sized ships are ideally placed to offer ‘safe sailing’ and all these measures will be in place by the end of August.”
The group’s travel business has remained on pause since the decision in mid-March to suspend operations due to Covid-19.
“The group has been focused on ensuring customers whose holidays have been cancelled are re-booked on future trips or offered a cash refund,” Saga said.
“The group continues to expect some travel to resume this year; retention levels continue to be high, particularly in cruise, and a significant number of changes have been made to how the travel businesses operate to provide peace of mind and ensure the safety of customers and colleagues.”
However, looking forward Saga added: “The group remains able to resume traveling as soon as restrictions have been removed but has continued to run stress tests based on a wide range of outcomes for the Covid-19 crisis, including a further delay to the resumption of travel until next year.
“Based on this analysis the group continues to expect to remain in compliance with key banking covenants at the next two half-yearly testing dates, although further actions may be needed to stay ahead given potential uncertain long-term impacts of Covid-19 on the business and the maturity of bank facilities in May 2022 and May 2023.”
Chief executive Euan Sutherland said: “Saga has made good progress against the priorities set last year and we have accelerated this change given the backdrop of the Covid-19 crisis.
“We have been clearly focused on serving our customers and keeping colleagues safe through this period of major disruption.
“We reacted quickly to the imposition of the lockdown, moving more than 3,000 colleagues to work from home, while maintaining our industry-leading customer service levels.
“Our insurance business has been resilient and continues to make progress while within travel, more than 70% of cruise guests have moved their booking to later sailings, showing the continued demand for our specialist boutique offer.
“I am excited about what we will be able to achieve with a tighter focus on differentiated products and the right investment in strengthening our digital capabilities and driving our brand and membership proposition.”
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