Saga’s trade chief has said the company is “really confident” of restarting cruise operations in May, after it announced a new policy insisting all passengers must be vaccinated to travel.
The over-50s specialist wrote to clients this week informing them they must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 at least 14 days before their trip.
Saga’s new vessel Spirit of Adventure is slated to launch on 4 May with sister ship Spirit of Discovery due to resume sailing the following month.
Iain Powell, Saga’s head of trade sales, told TTG the company “had been working closely with government” and had created the policy based around the UK’s Covid vaccination plan.
“We’re really, really confident about [restarting in May]. We wouldn’t have built in the timeline and brought in the policy if we weren’t.”
Powell said that alongside Saga’s Covid protocols – which saw the company awarded Shield+ accreditation maritime safety expert Lloyd’s in November – the mandatory vaccination element was “the last piece of the puzzle”.
“The customer response has been really fantastic so we know it’s the right thing to do and we hope to see that pent-up demand for the bookings customers have told us they want to make [once they and other passengers are vaccinated].”
Asked how agents had reacted to the news, Powell said: “On the whole, very positive. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t one or two who said they didn’t agree with it.
“A couple have told us that it’s not for them but ultimately we know it suits the vast majority of our customers. All of our key accounts have responded incredibly positively because they know their customers want that and it suits our customer base – I can only see good things coming off the back of it.”
Powell said he believed for other lines specialising in family and multi-generational groups, implementing a similar policy would “be more difficult” as younger passengers may not be vaccinated until much later in the year.
“For us we know the people we’ll take on holiday will fit into those first few categories in the vaccination roll-out programme so we can confidently say by May/June time, when we resume service, our customers will be vaccinated. That’s probably a much more difficult stance for some other companies to take.
“I think it will become more of the norm and more companies will do it but will everybody do it? Probably not, as I don’t think everyone will be able to.”