70 years of Saga
Take a look back at our history – it is remarkable to see how much has been achieved since our humble beginnings in 1951.
Sidney and Margery De Haan launched a travel company offering affordable off-peak UK holidays exclusively to retired people.
We pioneered tourism in the Algarve.
1965 We offered our first overseas holiday – the destination was Ostend.
We became British Rail’s largest passenger customer as we chartered trains to carry our customers to destinations across the UK.
1973 Our first cruise was sold.
Long-haul holidays were introduced to our collection.
1980 The Saga International Office in Boston was opened.
1984 Saga Magazine was launched, with Prince Charles and Princess Diana appearing on the cover.
1985 Saga received its first Queen’s Award for export achievement.
We began offering our first all‑inclusive holidays in Europe.
1990 We received our second Queen’s Award for export achievement.
1996 Our first cruise ship, Saga Rose, was purchased and entered service that same year.
2001 We celebrated our 50th anniversary.
The first Saga radio station was launched in the West Midlands on October 16, 2001, later followed by two other stations based in the East Midlands and Glasgow.
2019 Our very first purpose-built cruise ship, Spirit of Discovery launched.
Where Saga began
It was Sidney De Haan’s head for business, combined with wife Margery’s inspiration, that set them on the road to success in the 1950s.
With the prospect of a long winter of empty rooms at their 12-bedroom seaside hotel, Margery noted that older holidaymakers had the freedom and flexibility to stay longer, and during the quieter off-peak months when resorts were less crowded.
A small advert in a Bradford newspaper, offering retirees a week-long full-board holiday in Folkestone, Kent with travel, meals en route and three excursions for £6.50 proved to be incredibly popular, and the De Haan’s formula of providing good value holidays during the off-peak season was a triumph that would revolutionise the holiday industry.
Sidney spread the word through Darby & Joan Clubs and similar organisations and was the first to charter trains with British Rail in order to transport his growing number of customers up and down the UK – cleverly avoiding the busier lines of London. He pioneered tourism to the Algarve, implemented the use of empty summer university accommodation in the UK, and developed the concept of marketing direct, so customers could talk to Saga without having to go through travel agents.
The founding philosophy behind Sidney and Margery’s newspaper advertisement in 1951 was to provide good, honest value off-peak holidays, with a focus on quality and service, and 70 years later these cornerstones remain firmly at the heart of what we do.