Sidney De Haan

Sidney Isaac De Haan, OBE (6 February 1919 – 16 February 2002) was the founder of Saga, the package holidays firm for people aged 50 and over that changed the way the industry looked at retirees and older people.

Born in East London, Sidney began training as a chef after leaving school at 14. He then worked at the Waldorf Hotel, before being called up to the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1939. He was captured at Dunkirk, spending three years at Stalag Luft VIIIb in Poland. In 1943, he was released to escort sick prisoners of war in their repatriation to England. Following the war, he fulfilled an ambition and bought a small seaside hotel in Folkestone, but found that business soon dried up out of season. It was his wife Margery who observed that there was a ready market in those who were retired, and Sidney set about marketing cheap, all-inclusive seaside holidays including travel by coach and three meals a day. He quickly had to buy another hotel in order to meet demand.

With travel agents put off by the low commission, Sidney undertook his own marketing and established Saga as a tour operator in 1951. As the business grew, he expanded overseas, and became an inadvertent pioneer of direct marketing when he started promoting Saga holidays by mail. In 1978, when he floated Saga on the stock exchange, it was the most over-subscribed issue of the year. Many of the shareholders were themselves Saga holidaymakers, who were very loyal and provided Sidney with a high level of repeat business.

Sidney was awarded the OBE for services to tourism in 1984, the year of his retirement, having become an established name in travel circles. By the time of his death, Saga was once again owned by the family, and employed 1,800 staff.

Sidney De Haan was honoured by the British Travel & Hospitality Industry Hall of Fame in 2002.