Mature holidaymakers are “hungry to travel”, according to Saga Holidays’ chief executive, as the over-50s specialist unveiled its 2021-22 brochures.

“Older customers were the first hit but they will be the first to get the vaccinations; there is a sense of optimism,” said Chris Simmonds. “They will be the first to travel.”

The operator has launched four brochures, covering the UK and Ireland; Europe and Mediterranean; long-haul holidays in the Travellers World range; and river cruises.

New options include Turkey; no-fly tours in Italy; a tour following the Great Migration through Tanzania and Kenya; and tracking gorillas through the jungles of Uganda.

The Travellers World range has been extended to cover the whole of 2022 as customers wanting long-haul trips are booking further in advance than those seeking short-haul tours.

Saga will also see the inaugural voyage for its first purpose-built river cruise ship, Spirit of the Rhine, at the end of March.

Simmonds said UK and Ireland bookings are doing well while long-haul holidays are looking strong for 2022.

The first Saga departures will be in spring, although re-start dates are under constant review.

The lockdown means that sales through agencies are down year-on-year as customers cannot visit their local agent, Simmonds added.

“The trade are still selling for us but with shops shut, we have to be realistic,” he said.

“We are optimistic as the vaccines are rolling out and people are hungry to travel.”

The new ITV travel show, South Africa with Gregg Wallace, is being sponsored by Saga and is prompting inquiries for late 2021 and 2022.

Long-term winter stays are proving popular for next winter and many clients are considering once-in-a-lifetime trips to destinations such as Uzbekistan and Uganda.

“They are very adventurous and thinking about spoiling themselves – there is the desire to spend,” said Simmonds.

“There will be a surge once it’s clear when people are able travel.”

He highlighted Saga’s ‘Reassurance Promise’ which includes travel insurance and flexible cancellation cover which includes coronavirus.

The operator has also extended its free amendment policy to 60 days before departure if customers book by February 28.

Simmonds took up his role in January 2020, just weeks before the pandemic hit.

He paid tribute to the resilience and flexibility of his colleagues and the way they switched to working from home.

“It was an extraordinary feat, very tough, but we have always been a resilient industry and always face uncertainty,” he said.

More: Saga creates ‘Once-in-a-lifetime’ collection