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70 years of Saga

Our history


Take a look back at our history – it is remarkable to see how much has been achieved since our humble beginnings in 1951.

Our history


Sidney and Margery De Haan outside the Rhodesia Hotel

Sidney and Margery De Haan launched a travel company offering affordable off-peak UK holidays exclusively to retired people.


1960s Saga advert for a holiday in the Algarve

We pioneered tourism in the Algarve.

A postcard from Ostend

1965 We offered our first overseas holiday – the destination was Ostend.


1975 Saga brochure cover in conjunction with British Rail and a Saga badge

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.


1983 Saga brochure cover for holidays to the Far East

Long-haul holidays were introduced to our collection.

1980 The Saga International Office in Boston was opened.

The first cover of Saga Magazine featuring Princess Diana, Prince William and Prince Charles

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.

A piggy bank full of coins

1987 We began to offer insurance and financial services.


A cocktail beside a swimming pool

We began offering our first all‑inclusive holidays in Europe.

1990 We received our second Queen’s Award for export achievement.

Saga Rose

1996 Our first cruise ship, Saga Rose, was purchased and entered service that same year.


Saga's 50th Anniversary celebrations

2001 We celebrated our 50th anniversary.

Saga FM 105.7 West Midlands logo

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.


Former CEO, Lance Batchelor, and the Duchess of Cornwall at the Naming Ceremony of Spirit of Discovery

2019 Our very first purpose-built cruise ship, Spirit of Discovery launched.


Spirit of Adventure

2021 Spirit of Discovery’s sister ship, Spirit of Adventure began her inaugural cruise season.

Spirit of the Rhine

Our first purpose-built river cruise ship, Spirit of the Rhine entered service in 2021.

Spirit of the Danube

2022 Spirit of the Danube also joined our river cruise fleet.

Where Saga began

Rhodesia Hotel advert

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.

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