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5 things to know: 13 March 2012
March 13 2012

From the desks of the editorial staff:
• Apollo to acquire Great Wolf water park chain
• STR: New York leads US markets in hotel construction
• Choice, IHG seek growth in Europe by conversion
• Facebook’s Timeline offers opportunities to marketers
• Engineer cites structural issues in Harmon hearings

An affiliate of Apollo Global Management, LLC will acquire Great Wolf Resorts, North America’s largest family of indoor water park resorts, for approximately $703 million, including the assumption of the company’s outstanding debt, according to a news release.

Apollo will make an offer to purchase all outstanding shares of Great Wolf common stock for $5 per share, which represents a premium of 72.9% over the six-month average of Great Wolf’s share price ending Monday.

New York leads all U.S. markets with the number of rooms under construction, according to STR’s pipeline report for February.’s parent company reported that the Big Apple had 7,296 rooms under construction, which represents a 17.2% increase from the same time last year. Rounding out the top five markets with the most rooms under construction:

• Orlando (3,265 rooms)
• Washington, D.C. (2,618 rooms)
• Chicago (1,392 rooms)
• Nashville (1,388 rooms)

Nashville had the highest year-over-year percentage change, reporting a 223.5% increase in the number of rooms under construction.

“Conversion” was a ubiquitous buzz word at last week’s International Hotel Investment Forum, where several global hotel chains said it was the primary means of growth as debt financing remains crippled over uncertainty surrounding Europe’s sovereign debt crisis.

That plays right in the hands of Choice Hotels International, said President and CEO Steve Joyce. The company’s 11 brands are much more flexible in their design standards than some cookie-cutter competitors. The company also developed cloud-based property management and central reservation systems, which lower the cost of conversion considerably. Choice, which has more than 400 properties in Europe at present, expects to increase that number by 100 within the next year or two, he said.

Meanwhile, InterContinental Hotels Group is turning to growth vehicle Hotel Indigo, whose boutique style stresses a more flexible design in one property to the next. The company has seen much interest in the brand in key cities throughout Europe, said Robert Shepherd, IHG’s senior VP of development and design in Europe.

Facebook’s Timeline feature doesn’t become mandatory for businesses until 30 March, but hotel marketers should make the switch much earlier to reap all the benefits of this enhanced marketing platform, reports’s Alissa Ponchione.

Timeline lays out content in a virtual timeline that tracks a business’s posts, updates and photos throughout history. The new layout emphasizes visuals and allows hoteliers to create easy-to-navigate tabs for photos, bookings, apps, maps, videos and more, explained Vizergy’s Lisa Klueppel.

The Timeline platform also has a more sophisticated back end that allows hoteliers to track user engagement and other metrics. “You get to see how they’re connecting. You get to see the reach,” she said. “It’s so much more information than anyone imagined we’d have from a marketing platform.”

Monday began the first of what is expected to be four days of hearings surrounding the ill-fated Harmon at CityCenter. Half-owner MGM Resorts International requested to demolish the property, whose development stalled after structural defects were discovered. General contractor Perini Building Company is fighting the request, saying the Harmon can be repaired.

In yesterday’s hearings, Chukwuma Ekwueme, a Los Angeles-area structural engineer hired by CityCenter, testified about concerns the Harmon could be felled by an earthquake or may collapse in a fire because of the defects, reports Vegas Inc. Ekwueme is scheduled to resume testifying today. At some point he’ll be cross-examined by Perini attorneys. They are expected to produce their own engineers who will blame MGM for design problems at CityCenter and insist the Harmon can be repaired.

Compiled by Patrick Mayock.

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