Published: 14:36, 07 April 2021
| Updated: 14:42, 07 April 2021
Travel and insurance giant Saga is recruiting staff as it prepares to "relaunch" its brand later this year.
The firm, which had invested millions of pounds in two new cruise ships just ahead of the pandemic, was forced to shed hundreds of jobs last year as the impact of the lockdowns and travel restrictions devastated its holiday trade.
In its latest financial figures, released today, the firm posted a £61.2million pre-tax loss for the year to the end of January with underlying profits down 84% on the previous year to just £17.1m.
It estimates it was forced to shed 36% of its workforce as a result of the pandemic. It employed around 3,000 staff in Kent prior to the first lockdown.
It is believed it could now be looking to hire as many as 500 jobs - with many already being advertised.
With is travel operations suspended for the last 12 months, it has also confirmed its cruise ship relaunch will now be later this summer - rather than May as previously announced. It has also ruled it will only take bookings for trips from those who have been fully vaccinated.
Over the last year it has off-loaded some 'non-core' businesses, sold its former cruise ship the Saga Sapphire, and renegotiated debt terms on the purchase of new ship the Spirit of Discovery - which was delivered in 2019 - and Spirit of Adventure which arrived last summer. Neither are expected to set sail until June at the earliest.
It also saw the return of Sir Roger De Haan as non-executive group chairman. He invested £100m, in exchange for 26% of the shares, in the firm he once ran and which was founded by his father, Sidney De Haan.
Euan Sutherland, Saga's group chief executive officer, said: "Saga has made significant progress in a year of unprecedented challenge, during which our key focus has been on serving our customers and keeping our colleagues safe. At the same time, we have continued the work to strengthen our financial position and started to deliver against our new strategy, outlined in September, which will return Saga to sustainable growth."
He added: "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.
"We look forward to relaunching our brand later in 2021."