If only a 50,000-square foot indoor waterpark could wash Great Wolf Resorts'
Occupancy clocked in at just 50.2% throughout Great Wolf's properties. That was below the 53.3% rate that the purveyor of rustic lodges with massive indoor water parks achieved a year earlier. It gets even worse if you back out the initial success of the company's two 2005 additions, since comparable occupancy rates fell to 47.4% on the older establishments.
The company's freshest resorts, in Williamsburg and the Poconos, booked briskly and at higher rates than the rest of the chain, which helped beef up the company's showing. Revenues per available room -- a telltale metric in the hospitality industry, because it penalizes an operator for empty rooms -- grew from $158.32 a night in the fourth quarter of 2004 to $175.09 a night this past quarter. However, if we back out the performance of the two-star additions, we're down to revenues per available room of just $144.63 a night at the other locations.
How you view the disparity may depend on what side of the glass you are looking at. The half-empty fans will point to the numbers as proof that Great Wolf is a novelty that wears off in time. The more upbeat bunch will argue that Great Wolf's site selection is improving as it moves into larger markets, where the concept is an attractive family vacation, and away from the crowded indoor waterpark havens of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio.
The trend to build high-end resorts with gargantuan indoor water play structures continues, especially at regional amusement parks looking to keep their day guests around a little bit longer. Income Investor pick Cedar Fair
This isn't the way that I thought it would play out. I recommended the shares to Rule Breakers subscribers last year. Even though I continue to own shares personally, I recommended selling the shares to ultimate growth stock investors this past summer, after the company disappointed the market twice within its first few months as a public company.
Thankfully, the rest of the premium newsletter service's picks have panned out a whole lot better. The average gain -- including the 33% hit on Great Wolf's recommendation -- is a healthy 25.6%. That's several times better than the market's average 7.4% return in that time.
If you believe that Great Wolf 's future lies in its new units, you may like the company as a turnaround play here. It sold off a 70% interest in its two original locations, and it has used those proceeds to help bankroll its future. I didn't like that move at first, but given the performance of the company's 2005 additions and the lay-up locations of its 2006 openings -- at Niagara Falls and adjacent to CBS'
That something just won't trickle down to the bottom line in 2006. And impatient investors may not be willing to wait that long.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz enjoys taking his family on coaster treks over the summer. He owns shares in Disney and units in Cedar Fair. T he Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.