Saga buoyed by ‘exceptional’ cruise bookings but flags ongoing insurance woes

Over 50s group Saga has hailed an “exceptional” level of bookings for its cruise business this year, but cautioned over a challenging market squeezing its insurance division.

The London-listed firm, which specialises in products and services for people over 50, highlighted a buoyant start to the year for its ocean and river cruises.

Bookings are ahead of the same time last year, with revenues 14% higher as more passengers secured their trips, Saga said.

The company sells all-inclusive cruises as well as group tours and holidays to destinations around the world.

Saga said that booked load factors – a measure used by travel firms to gauge how many available rooms have been filled by passengers – were 83% for its ocean cruises and 78% for its river.

Our ocean cruise business has traded exceptionally well and, in insurance, we have continued to take actions within a market which remains challenging

Mike Hazell, Saga’s chief executive

However, the company flagged that conditions have remained challenging in the insurance sector, with inflation continuing to put pressure on its business costs.

Saga sells insurance to over 50s including car, home, travel and health cover.

The wider insurance sector has been affected in recent years by inflation driving up the cost of claims, putting pressure on businesses who have to pay out compensation for policyholders.

Saga said it had taken action to stabilise its business and was seeing early signs of recovery for its car insurance arm, which had previously weighed on earnings.

Mike Hazell, Saga’s chief executive, said: “Our ocean cruise business has traded exceptionally well and, in insurance, we have continued to take actions within a market which remains challenging.

“Looking ahead, we are focused on driving sustainable business growth in a capital-light way, while growing our customer base and deepening our connections with those customers.”

Mr Hazell was given a pay packet worth £760,000 for the latest financial year.

The former chief executive Euan Sutherland, who stepped down at the end of last year, took home £1.8 million. It incorporated a bonus and share awards worth nearly £1.2 million.

The bonus was awarded during the year that the company reported a loss before tax of £129 million.

At Saga’s annual general meeting on Tuesday afternoon, 12.4% of shareholders voted against the directors’ remuneration report, reflecting concerns among investors over the pay packets.

Nevertheless, a majority voted in favour of the pay deals meaning it was approved.

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