'Demand for expedition travel has never been greater and with a proven track record of delivering high quality and immersive experiences, along with our longstanding partnership with National Geographic, we are generating booking strength from both loyal guests as well as those experiencing this type of travel for the first time,' said Sven-Olof Lindblad, president and CEO, Lindblad Expeditions Holdings.
'Reservations for departures later this year and beyond remain strong,' he added, 'as we continue to see broad based demand at higher yields for our newbuilds as well as our existing fleet.'
EPS 31 cents, up from 24 cents
Net income was $14.7m, or 31 cents per diluted share, up from $10.8m, or 24 cents per diluted share, in the first quarter of 2018.
The $3.9m increase primarily reflects a $3.1m tax benefit during the recent quarter versus tax expense of $0.3m a year ago. Also included were $0.7m in foreign currency gains in the current year compared to $0.5m in foreign currency losses in Q1 2018, as well as the absence of $1m in costs related to refinancing the company’s credit facility during the first quarter a year ago.
These increases were partially offset by $1.1m in higher depreciation and amortization primarily due to the addition of National Geographic Venture.
Tour revenues of $89.7m increased $7.2m, or 9%, year over year, driven by growth of $5.6m in the Lindblad segment and $1.7m from tour operator Natural Habitat.
Lindblad segment tour revenue of $76m increased $5.6m, or 8%, mainly due to a 9% increase in available guest nights, mostly from the addition of National Geographic Venture.
The growth in available guest nights, as well as a slight increase in occupancy to 91%, was partially offset by a 2% decrease in net yield to $1,099 from $1,127 as increased pricing was offset by itinerary changes.
Natural Habitat revenues of $13.6m increased $1.7m, or 14%, due primarily to higher ticket revenue from additional departures and increased pricing.
Adjusted earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortization decreased $0.1m to $22m.
New reservations system, website
Higher costs related to additional marketing spending to capitalize on the current interest in expedition cruising and a new reservations and customer relationship management system and website, to begin rolling out later this year and into 2020. The reservations system will enable full online booking, pricing in multiple currencies and upselling capabilities.
Full-year 2019 tour revenues are forecast in the range of $350m to $358m, growth of 13% to 16%. Adjusted EBITDA is projected at $67m to $70m, 22% to 28% higher.
As of April 30, Lindblad segment bookings for travel during 2019 have increased 11% compared to bookings for 2018 as of the same date a year ago. Additionally, the Lindblad segment had 94% of full year 2019 projected guest ticket revenues on the books versus 95% of full year 2018 revenue at the same time last year.
New National Geographic parent Disney
With Disney taking over National Geographic Partners as part of its acquisition of 20th Century Fox, Sven-Olof Lindblad predicted 'only good things,' citing Disney's 'way, way greater' reach. It will take awhile for Disney to assimilate the National Geographic part of the transaction and decide how the company wants to engage with it, however 'I see nothing but positives,' Lindblad said during the Q1 earnings call.
Steel-cutting for Endurance sister
The steel-cutting for a polar-class sister ship to National Geographic Endurance (undergoing outfittingfor a planned January 2020 delivery) is scheduled for this month, Lindblad said, with delivery set for Q3 2021.