Lindblad Expeditions today reported financial results for the quarter ended September 30, 2017.
Sven-Olof Lindblad, President and Chief Executive Officer, said "Lindblad's strategic investment to expand our capacity to capitalize on the rapidly growing demand for expedition travel has begun to deliver significant returns. Bookings in 2017 are up over 30% versus a year ago and the Company delivered strong third quarter financial growth fueled by the July launch of our first new-build vessel, the National Geographic Quest, while at the same time maintaining high occupancy levels across our existing fleet.
"This is only the first step in expanding our inventory and we are well under way on construction of her sister ship, the National Geographic Venture, which will be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2018. We also announced this morning that we have signed a contract for a new, state-of-the-art, polar ice class vessel. This contract includes options for two additional ships and these vessels will enable us to further immerse our guests in unique and authentic itineraries and broaden our ability to build additional shareholder value in the years to come."
Third quarter tour revenues of $84.6 million increased $13.8 million, or 20%, as compared to the same period in 2016. The increase was driven by $11.3 million of additional contributions from the Lindblad segment and a $2.5 million increase at Natural Habitat.
The third quarter of 2017 also included the cancellation of four highly booked voyages on the National Geographic Quest due to a delay in the launch of the vessel. Excluding the impact of these voyage cancellations and additional insurance proceeds received related to the National Geographic Orion, the Company estimates that total tour revenues would have increased 24% over the prior year period to $87.4 million.
Lindblad segment tour revenues of $67.5 million increased 20% compared to the third quarter a year ago primarily due to an $11.6 million increase in ticket revenue, mostly related to the launch of the National Geographic Quest in July of 2017. The growth in ticket revenue also reflects a 4% increase in Net Yield to $1,048, due to increased pricing and changes in itineraries, as well as Occupancy of 91%, which was in line with the same period a year ago.
Available Guest Nights increased by 16% primarily due to the addition of the National Geographic Quest to the fleet and from the cancellation of a voyage on the National Geographic Orion in the third quarter of 2016. Excluding the impact of the National Geographic Quest cancellations and additional insurance proceeds received related to the National Geographic Orion, the Company estimates that Lindblad segment tour revenue would have increased 25% over the prior year period to $70.3 million.
Net income attributable to Lindblad for the third quarter was $9.3 million, $0.20 per diluted share, as compared with net income attributable to Lindblad of $7.4 million, $0.16 per diluted share, in the third quarter of 2016. The $1.9 million improvement was primarily due to the higher operating results as well as lower depreciation and amortization due mainly to the accelerated depreciation associated with the retirement of the National Geographic Endeavour a year ago.
The third quarter of 2017 also includes $1.7 million of additional stock-based compensation expense primarily related to grants under the 2016 CEO Share Allocation Plan, which provides our CEO the ability to transfer shares from his existing holdings in the Company to eligible employees, as well as $1.4 million in executive severance expense.
Third quarter Adjusted EBITDA of $23.1 million increased $5.7 million, or 33%, as compared to the same period in 2016. The increase was due to $4.5 million of additional contributions from the Lindblad segment and a $1.2 million increase at Natural Habitat. Excluding the impact of the voyage cancellations and insurance proceeds, the Company estimates that Adjusted EBITDA would have increased 46% over the prior year period to $25.3 million.
Lindblad segment Adjusted EBITDA of $21.3 million increased 27% compared to the third quarter a year ago primarily due to the revenue growth partially offset by increased costs related to the launch of the National Geographic Quest. Excluding the impact of the voyage cancellations and insurance proceeds, the Company estimates that Lindblad segment Adjusted EBITDA would have increased 40% over the prior year period to $23.5 million.
Natural Habitat Adjusted EBITDA of $1.8 million increased $1.2 million compared to the third quarter a year ago primarily due to the revenue growth partially offset by higher cost of tours from additional guests and increased personnel costs.
The impact of the cancelled voyages on tour revenues was calculated as booked tour revenue at the time of cancellation less insurance proceeds.
The impact of the cancelled voyages on operating income and Adjusted EBITDA was calculated as booked tour revenue at the time of cancellation less insurance proceeds and estimated operating costs.
The Company's cash and cash equivalents were $112.3 million as of September 30, 2017, as compared with $135.4 million as of December 31, 2016. The decrease primarily reflects purchases of property and equipment of $44.0 million, mostly for the construction of the two new coastal vessels, and $6.2 million used to repurchase stock and warrants, partially offset by $29.4 million in net cash provided by operating activities due in large part to advanced bookings for future travel.
Free cash flow use was $14.6 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2017 as compared with a use of $34.9 million in the same period of 2016. The improved results reflect the increased operating performance, higher bookings for future travel and lower capital expenditures for new vessels. Free cash flow is defined as net cash provided by operating activities less purchases of property and equipment.
The Company expanded its travel offerings in July 2017 with the launch of the National Geographic Quest, which sailed in Alaska and British Columbia during the summer before voyaging to Costa Rica and Panama for the winter season. The Company's second new-build coastal vessel, the National Geographic Venture, is currently expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2018.
The current outlook also includes the estimated $8.9 million revenue impact and estimated $6.2 million Adjusted EBITDA impact associated with the first quarter cancellation of four voyages on the National Geographic Orion and two voyages on the National Geographic Sea Lion for necessary repairs.
As of October 31, 2017, the Lindblad segment had 99% of full year 2017 projected guest ticket revenues on the books versus 101% of full year 2016 revenue at the same time last year. Overall, bookings thus far in 2017 have increased over 30% compared with the same period a year ago. The Company continues to anticipate it will achieve its long-range revenue and Adjusted EBITDA targets.