The online travel specialist's shares began the year with minor gains that quickly gave way to significant losses in the wake of two disappointing earnings reports.
The biggest hit came right after TripAdvisor announced fiscal fourth-quarter earnings results that were highlighted by sharply lower profits. Yes, sales growth accelerated slightly, but the company's 2% revenue uptick was far below the 6% that investors were expecting. TripAdvisor executives noted at the time that they had made progress in what management was calling a transition year for the business.
Engagement metrics such as traffic volume and user-generated content were trending higher even though its shift to an instant-booking model pinched earnings. Investors chose to focus instead on the 67% plunge in net income.
TripAdvisor's stock fell again following fiscal first-quarter results that missed consensus estimates on both the top and bottom lines. Revenue gains were modest at 6%, and the 55% slump in earnings suggested that management isn't close to returning to overall profitability.
The most encouraging sign in the business so far this year has been a return to growth for the hotel-booking segment. That division endured revenue declines as bad as 21% (and plunging profits) following TripAdvisor's instant-booking rollout. Yet management remained firm in predicting that since the change improves the customer experience, it will ultimately result in a stronger market position.
Investors will be holding executives to their aggressive target of double-digit revenue growth for the full year. That goal implies growth will speed up over the next few quarters, thanks in part to a large marketing campaign that the company launched over the summer. Wall Street is bracing for flat adjusted earnings in 2017 as TripAdvisor works to position itself for a faster, more sustainable expansion pace in the years ahead.