Over-50s travel and insurance company Saga said it is on track for its fourth consecutive year of growth, boosted by strong demand for holidays among wealthy older people.
Saga is benefiting from the increased prosperity of baby boomers, people who were born after the second world war and before the swinging sixties, who have a healthy disposable income thanks to rising house prices and generous pension schemes and are choosing to spend their cash on holidays to far flung places.
The group reported bumper pre-sales for its new cruise ship Spirit of Discovery, with travel profit growing 63 per cent to £11.9m in the six months to July 31 as more people opt to go on holiday without annoying children and their parents.
Saga reported a 5.5 per cent rise in group underlying pre-tax profit to £110m.
Older travellers now account for 58 per cent of travel and tourism expenditure in the UK and Saga said this generation will become increasingly important as more people live longer and healthier lives.
In 2013, the over 50s in the UK spent roughly £1.9bn on cruise holidays. This will increase by 46 per cent to £2.8bn by 2020, according to analysis by Cebr.
Saga's CEO Lance Batchelor said Saga's new ship, Spirit of Discovery, will arrive in June 2019, and pre-sales are very strong.
"Our confidence in demand has supported our decision to purchase our second new ship, Spirit of Adventure, and to bring forward delivery to August 2020," he said.
Spirit of Discovery is now at an advanced stage of design with construction due to begin in February 2018. She will be delivered in June 2019 for her maiden cruise.
Until now Saga's ships were refitted liners that were built in the 60s and 70s.
However the new ships will offer passengers a completely new experience.
"Every cabin will have a balcony," said Mr Batchelor.
"You could be in a suite or a double cabin and you'll have an amazing balcony and views.
"The new ships will have a very high quality spa and an amazing gym where you can work out or do a yoga class whilst looking at the ocean all around you."
The new ships will feature a seafood restaurant, an East to West fusion restaurant and an evening bar. The crew will also receive much higher levels of comfort.
Mr Batchelor said there are no plans to raise prices as the ships will be far more efficient.
"We get a better financial return and customers get a much better experience," he said.
Saga said cruises are proving very popular with Yorkshire customers as the firm chauffeurs passengers from their home to the departure port at Dover or Southampton.
"You arrive at the ship and your bags are wafted up to your cabin," said Mr Batchelor.
"We launched the first 19 cruises to our advanced registered members on July 18, having generated over 18,000 advanced and pre-registrations by this date.
"Our calls with the advanced registered members are converting into sales at around 80 per cent and as at September 18, we had booked 6,449 passengers."
He said the new ships will transform the group's cruise business.
The firm is also launching a new membership scheme, Possibilities, to drive loyalty and offer "money-can't-buy experiences".
"Saga Possibilities is designed to say thank you to our members," said Mr Batchelor.
"Membership represents a fundamental change in the way in which we develop and create a beneficial long-term relationship with our customers, one that rewards loyalty and incentivises them to hold more products with us."
Cebr said that among the over 50s who are still working, 36 per cent said they plan to increase their spending on long haul holidays after retirement.
Saga's customers are demanding more exotic destinations and best selling holidays include the Saga Bush Camp located near South Africa’s Kruger National Park, renowned for its diverse wildlife including the ‘big five’. Saga’s private camp includes 12 furnished tents situated on an elevated deck overlooking the bush.
Another popular holiday is The Caucasus is Calling tour, which explores the former soviet republics of Georgia and Armenia. Saga guests tour Georgia’s wine-producing areas and its capital Tbilisi plus UNESCO-listed churches and monasteries in Armenia, the world’s first Christian country.
Saga is also offering volcano walking tours in Sicily this season.