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Saga Group’s river operation returns to profit for first time since pandemic


Saga Group’s river cruise arm has returned to profit for the first time since the pandemic, with ocean cruise “far exceeding” the brand’s initial earnings targets

In a financial update covering the year ending 31 January 2024, the over 50’s travel and insurance specialist saw strong consumer demand across all its travel brands.

“Ocean cruise had an outstanding year and, as a result, we far exceeded our initial earnings targets, while river
cruise and travel both returned to profit for the first time since the pandemic,” said CEO Mike Hazell.

“Looking ahead, forward bookings are strong, with all three of these businesses significantly ahead of the same point in the prior year.”

Ocean cruise reported an underlying profit before tax of £35.5m, compared with an underlying loss before tax of £0.7m in the previous year, marking a year-on-year improvement of £36.2m.

Supported by strong load factor and per diem, river cruise saw a year-on-year profit improvement of £8.1m, with revenue coming in 52 per cent of 2022.

Strong consumer demand ‘expected to continue’, predicts Saga boss

“The strong customer demand we have generated across cruise and travel is expected to continue and, with an
encouraging pipeline of bookings, these businesses are well set to continue to grow in 2024/25,” predicted Hazell.

Bookings for ocean cruise remain strong, with a load factor of 78 per cent and a per diem of £3,679 for 2024/25 already secured.

River bookings for 2024/25 are also positive and “significantly” ahead of the same point last year, with a load factor of 72 per cent and per diem of £3,399 compared with 66 per cent and £2,999.

“Our priorities remain unchanged; to reduce leverage and increase our strategic flexibility,” Hazell added. “In ocean cruise, with the current business nearing optimum capacity, we are evaluating routes to accelerate growth as customer demand continues to build strongly.”

Earlier this year, the company announced plans to expand its river cruise fleet from July 2025 with the addition of a new ship, Spirit of the Moselle.

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