Travel portals and flash sale websites are trying harder to reach penny-pinching travelers.
Expedia (Nasdaq: EXPE ) is working with Groupon for Groupon Getaways, keeping up with LivingSocial's homegrown travel initiatives. priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN ) rolled out Hotel Bid Alerts last month, allowing users to be emailed when a certain price point has been accepted as a winning bid in an area hotel category.
All of this jockeying for position would seem to make travel deals publisher Travelzoo (Nasdaq: TZOO ) feel more than a little vulnerable. Travelzoo, after all, seemed to have the market cornered as a vocal promoter of published deals.
Can it survive? Of course. Can it thrive? Have you seen Travelzoo's performance lately? The publisher's been blowing through Wall Street's profit targets over the past year and change, just as social couponing sites gain in popularity and traditional portals aim to appeal to opportunistic bargain hunters.
Smarter competition isn't hurting Travelzoo. If anything, it's drawing more attention to the niche and allowing the site to learn new tricks.
Travelzoo didn't roll out the Groupon-esque Local Deals until just last year, but it's already moving the needle.
A recent study by deal aggregator Yipit Data revealed that the average Travelzoo prepaid offer is outselling the average travel deal through Groupon and LivingSocial. The high-margin nature of these vouchers has helped propel the valuation of the all of its promising players.
Travelzoo's stock has popped more than sixfold since bottoming out last summer, and it now trades for 32 times next year's projected profitability. The key here is that Travelzoo wasn't fetching a forward earnings multiple of six before the move. Analysts have simply had to jack their guesstimates higher with every market-thumping quarter delivered by Travelzoo.
Deals are big business, explaining why Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) has been a big investor in LivingSocial and why a profitless Groupon is going public at a lofty price.
There's big money to be made in getting you to your next getaway cheaply, and Travelzoo is lucky enough to have arrived fashionably early.
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