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Published on Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Travel agency brands Saga 'disgusting' in social media backlash


Over-50s specialist operator Saga has suffered a social media backlash after telling its customers they must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 at least two weeks before they travel.

Travel agency Tradewinds Travel labelled the company 'disgusting' and some customers called for a boycott.

Saga said last week that it had taken the decision to make vaccination mandatory after speaking to its customers.

Customer polling showed 95% of its guests were supportive of the policy change. Since it was announced, the company is understood to have received a largely positive response from both trade partners and customers.

In an announcement on its website on 21 January, Saga said customers who are exempt from the vaccine would still be allowed to travel but all others must have both doses before being allowed on its holidays, tours or cruises.

In order to allow enough time for all booked passengers to be fully vaccinated, the company has pushed back the planned start of its programmes to 1 May.

In the statement, CEO Chris Simmonds said Saga 'want to ensure we are providing the safest possible experience' for its guests, many of whom are elderly.

Advantage Travel chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said welcomed the move last week, saying it would provide travellers with greater levels of comfort and confidence.

While others have also praised Saga for making vaccinations compulsory, travel agency Tradewinds Travel said it was 'disgusting' in a post of Twitter.

Tradewinds Travel also says on Twitter that it has boycotted Qantas since the airline's CEO indicated the Aussie airline would require passengers to be vaccinated. [LINK]

In fact, Brentford based Tradewinds Travel doesn't appear to be taking any bookings currently as a message on its website says it won't be fully open for reservations until April.

Travellers call for Saga boycott

Some travellers have also called for a boycott of Saga following its decision to make vaccinations compulsory for its customers.

While a handful of users responding to Saga's announcement on Twitter supported the move, dozens appeared enraged by its vaccination policy.

Some said it was 'fascist discrimination', others that it was against the Nuremburg Code, which is a set of principles for human experimentation and has nothing to do with travel.

One person tweeted in response to Saga's announcement: "The Nuremberg codes states that people should be 'able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion'. Your forced compliance violates this ruling."

Other users accused Saga of attempting to breach data protection rules, while some accused it of 'pushing' the vaccine on customers who might otherwise refuse it.

One person wrote: "Do you actually think you'll have any customers left after they've been blackmailed into getting a trial vaccination?? You've just basically declared yourself bankrupt as well as breaking the Nuremberg code well done."

One customer claimed that after booking with Saga for 'almost 20 years' she would take her business elsewhere.

Another said: "This is an absolute disgrace. You are trying to coerce people into being vaccinated, which is very wrong and starting down a dangerous path.".

The users who supported Saga's decision said it was 'a smart move', 'brave and bold', and they felt the policy would protect its customers.

Saga claims customers are sticking with it

In a trading update given to the London Stock Exchange this morning,
Saga said its customer retention rates for cruises was 69% - with £140m of cruises booked so far - while for its tour operations it was 41%.

It said the requirement for all guests to be fully vaccinated was in addition to its enhanced safety procedures. These include reduced guest capacity on cruises to allow for appropriate social distancing, enhanced medical areas and air conditioning, multi-layer Covid-19 testing ahead of departure, increased crew/guest ratios in order to deliver enhanced cleaning regimes and a quarantine and testing procedure for crew.

"These measures further compliment the nature of our spacious, boutique ships which offer fresh air in all cabins, control of airflow in public spaces and ionisation and ultra-violet filter capability, enabling the safest experience for our guests," it said in its update.

By Linsey McNeill, Editor (UK)

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  • Disgusting??

    What the hell is wrong with these people who feel disgusted that Saga are daring to require customers to be vaccinated? They haven't been told to have a funeral plan or have a sex change, just to do the sensible thing and get Covid protected. Why on earth wouldn't anyone want to get vaccinated anyway? I think mature Saga clients are too savvy to believe all the fake social media rubbish from the conspiracy nuts. Personally, I wouldn't book a Saga holiday unless I knew for sure EVERYONE in the group had been vaccinated.

    By Keith Standen, Wednesday, January 27, 2021

  • Trump"s English Language Academy ?

    Is Tradewinds Travel part of of Trump"s English Language Academy ? "Disgusting" ?!

    By Paul Tucker, Wednesday, January 27, 2021

  • Meeting Customer Demand I'd Say

    Given their customer profile, many of Saga's passengers will be of an age where shielding may have been an essential part of their lives these past few months, It is understandable that they will want to maintain their safety and Saga is merely offering the reassurance they seek.

    By Mike Pitman, Tuesday, January 26, 2021

  • Agree with Tom

    Undue exposure for the minority. If whomever planned to trash Saga's reputation, I think it may only serve to ensure they get more bookings! Reason: Who would want to be on a cruise ship or a tour with any one of them, so book Saga - then you know these Covidiots won't be there.

    By LINDA PARKES, Tuesday, January 26, 2021

  • Alternate Headline

    You could just as easily have titled this article "Saga successfully filters anti-vaxxer loonies from its cruises" : Saga sees a boost in confidence from it's saner, more civilised cohort as they are reassured that the outspoken, rather rude, anti-vaxxer couple on the next table definitely won't be coming this year, as they are at home sulking (and you can tell because they don't have masks on). Seriously though, I do think the headline is a little unduly negative. This was surely the intention of the policy?

    By ex Severn, Tuesday, January 26, 2021

  • Responsible journalism?

    I think you're giving undue weight to a noisy minority of anti-vax/anti-mask types. Have you looked closely at the social media profiles of some of these people? I doubt many of them are Saga customers.

    By Tom O'Hara, Tuesday, January 26, 2021

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