What happened

TripAdvisor (NASDAQ:TRIP) shareholders beat the market last month, as their stock gained 16% compared to a 4% decrease in the S&P 500, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

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The travel specialist's stock remains well below its all-time high, which it set in mid-2014.

So what

Investors reacted positively to fourth-quarter earnings results that paired 2% higher revenue with a swing to net losses. On an adjusted basis, though, TripAdvisor showed significant progress at boosting profitability in its core hotel business after nearly two straight years of declines.

A couple checks into a hotel.

Image source: Getty Images.

In other positive news for the business, its non-hotel segment, which includes bookable travel attractions, expanded by 20% to reach 24% of the broader business -- up from 15% in 2015.

Now what

TripAdvisor's management team had to accept slower user growth in exchange for improved profitability last quarter, and they made it clear that this is a trade-off they're willing to keep making until the hotel segment reaches firmer financial footing. However, investors can expect weak overall earnings in 2018 as the company directs more resources into building up the promising, but not yet profitable non-hotel segment.

Demitrios Kalogeropoulos owns shares of TripAdvisor. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends TripAdvisor. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.