Briefs: USTA reacts to new tourism strategy; Apollo, Newbond to buy Hilton Times Square

USTA lauds new tourism strategy: The U.S. Travel Association (USTA) has applauded Biden admin’s new National Travel and Tourism Strategy to drive global visitation. The new strategy comes at a time when international spending on travel in U.S. was still 78% below pre-pandemic levels in 2021, USTA said in a statement. Stating that the recovery of American travel jobs and visitor spending depends on the annual growth of international inbound travel, USTA President and CEO Roger Dow lauded the “ambitious goal” of attracting 90 million visitor arrivals annually in the U.S. by 2027. “The strategy sets out specific actions that the government can take to rebuild our travel economy and make it more globally competitive than it was before the pandemic. There is a lot of work ahead, but the administration must start by immediately repealing the pre-departure testing requirement for all vaccinated international air travelers and taking steps to drastically lower visa wait times,” Dow said. Over 40 countries have removed their pre-departure testing norm and a survey found that 54% of international travelers were less likely to visit the U.S. with the requirement still being enforced. Average wait times for visa appointments have surged to over a year in some of the top source markets, preventing many from visiting the country, Dow added.

Hilton Times Square in New York City

Apollo, Newbond to acquire Hilton Times Square: Apollo Global Management, New York City, and investor Newbond Holdings have agreed to acquire the 478-key Hilton Times Square in New York City for U$85 million, with plans to close the deal by this summer and reopen in the fall. Sunstone Hotel Investors, Irvine, California, acquired the hotel in 2006 for US$242.5 million and sold it to New York City-based Torchlight Investors in December 2021. This February, the hotel was valued at US$93.8 million, almost US$9 million more than Apollo and Newbond’s purchase price. The property is subject to a ground lease, which was restructured by Torchlight. The hotel was reportedly losing revenue even before the pandemic, with debt service coverage ratio slipping to 0.97 in 2019, indicating that revenue failed to cover its mortgage costs.

KKR to sell 5 in Balearic Islands: KKR is reportedly looking for a buyer for a five-hotel portfolio in the Balearic Islands that it had acquired five years ago. The properties are managed by the Alua hotel brand and are reportedly being offered at a starting price of €140 million (US$150 million). KKR has commissioned JLL and Eastdeal to sell the properties. KKR, along with Dunas Capital, purchased the portfolio of the Intertur Hotels chain in May 2017 for around €100 million (US$107.13 million), comprising two properties in Mallorca (Hotel Hawaii Mallorca & Suites and Palmanova Bay) and three in Ibiza (Intertur Hotel Hawaii Ibiza, Hotel Miami Ibiza and Apartmentos Miami Ibiza). KKR and Dunas Capital added 1,119 rooms among the five hotels that were marketed under the Alua brand a year later. Alua, owned by Apple Leisure Group, currently operates 40 hotels across Spain and Greece.

Sonesta announces 50 new franchised hotels: Sonesta International Hotels Corp., Newton, Massachusetts, has announced 50 new franchise hotels with Sonesta brands since the start of the year. Sonesta started franchising Sonesta Hotels, Sonesta Select, Sonesta ES Suites and Sonesta Simply Suites in September 2021. The company has franchised hotels with 20 ownership groups. The new franchise owners have committed to franchise 20 additional hotels using the Sonesta brand in the next 24-36 months. Presently, 12 of Sonesta’s 16 brands are available for domestic franchising. The company offers a platform of franchise services, hotel operations and franchisee support, including brands with a range of hotel service levels. There are around 300 hotels under Sonesta’s seven brands.

Bespoke acquires McMillan Hotels: Bespoke Hotels, the Warrington, England-based independent hotel group, has acquired the Scottish hotel group McMillan Hotels, which consists of three family-friendly hotels operating in South West Scotland. The three properties are the 3-star North West Castle (Stranraer), 4-star Cally Palace Hotel & Golf Course (Gatehouse of Fleet) and the 3-star coastal Fernhill Hotel (Portpatrick). Business will continue as usual for staff and guests at the luxury 3 and 4-star properties. With this acquisition, Bespoke now has a portfolio of 90 hotels, of which 26 are located in Scotland.

Meetings and events see major growth: Meetings and events in May surged by 276% over May 2021, while May rebounded from the previous month with a 12.5% rise month-over-month, revealed the latest monthly and event data for May by Knowland. With 12% growth since April, May recovered 65.5% of 2019 levels. The average number of attendees per event this May was 123, compared to 65 in May 2021 and 92 in May 2019. A total of 3,271 square feet of average space was used in May, compared to 2,601 square feet in May 2021 and 2,836 square feet in May 2019. The top five growth markets compared to May were Chicago, Atlanta, San Diego, New York and Minneapolis. The corporate sector accounted for 62.8% of meetings and evet business, led by the technology, healthcare and financial