COVID-19: Saga looks to rehire 500 workers for holiday restart as group reports annual loss

Wednesday 7th April 2021 17:30 BST

The company, which last month pushed back the planned resumption of its cruises from May until later in the summer, axed 1,400 jobs in its financial year to 31 January.

Saga said that 600 of the redundancies were directly a result of a lack of clarity on the future of post-COVID-19 travel.

The majority of the losses, across the business, were linked to the disposal of other businesses as part of a wider shake-up undertaken by chief executive Euan Sutherland.

Saga told Sky News it was already advertising for 250 of the roles across its tours and cruise operations.

It reported a pre-tax loss of £61.2m for the financial year compared to £301m a year earlier as its insurance arm offset the poor performance for travel.

Profits of £17.1m were recorded on an underlying basis thanks to earnings of £134.6m for insurance.

The travel segment recorded a loss of £78.5m.

Saga said it remained hopeful of a summer restart with big pent-up demand for holidays among its clients - a customer base that is being prioritised for vaccines on an age basis.

Most over-50s have now received their first jab under the rollout.

But clouds remain on the horizon for Saga, and the wider travel sector, as the government is yet to confirm whether holidays will be allowed to resume from 17 May under PM Boris Johnson's roadmap for lockdown-easing in England.

It is examining the merits of so-called vaccine passports and testing regimes amid fears a third wave of infections in Europe poses a significant risk.

In Saga's case, it said that while bookings for this year were down on the same period the year before, demand for next year was well ahead.

It hoped its Spirit of Discovery ship would be able to set sail again from June while it would be another month for its Spirit of Adventure.

Shares closed up 11.3%.

Mr Sutherland told investors: "Looking ahead, while we are mindful of economic headwinds and the potential ongoing impacts of COVID-19, it is clear that there is significant pent-up demand among our customer base, the vast majority of whom have now been vaccinated and are ready to enjoy post-lockdown freedom."

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