UPDATE 1-Saga's next year cruise bookings cross pre-COVID-19 levels, post H1 profit

(Adds details, chairman’s quote, background)

Sept 22 (Reuters) - Over-50s holidays group Saga Plc said on Wednesday cruise bookings for next fiscal year had crossed pre-pandemic levels, but warned there was still uncertainty on the longer-term impact of COVID-19 on the sector.

The Kent, UK-based company reported a pretax profit of 0.7 million pounds ($1 million) for the six months ended July 31, compared with a 55.5 million pound loss a year earlier, with earnings from its insurance division making up for the shortfall in its cruise operations.

“We have begun a phased resumption of our tour operations. However, COVID-19 is still affecting them and we expect to take far fewer customers on holiday than we would normally in the second half of our financial year,” Saga Chairman Roger De Haan said.

Tour bookings for 2021/22 stood at 18 million pounds and 109 million pounds for 2022/23.

Saga, which provides products and services tailored for customers over the age of 50 in the UK, has been offering discounts and has mandated vaccination for cruisers to attract travellers after months of hiatus due to the pandemic. Its cruises resumed in June.

The industry was hit by a number of coronavirus outbreaks in the middle of cruises. New and fast-spreading variants of the virus have added to uncertainty as the sector comes back online.

$1 = 0.7325 pounds Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich