What happened

Shares of travel reservation company Booking Holdings (NASDAQ:BKNG) are surging today, up 11.7% as of 2:30 p.m. EDT, and Mexican airports owner Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico (NYSE:PAC) are up 12.8% alongside them.

Shareholders of both companies may want to send a thank-you note to Marriott International (NASDAQ:MAR) -- up 11.7% -- for that.

Airplane flying over Eiffel Tower at sunrise

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

There's no new news to be found today regarding either Booking Holdings or Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico. However, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson went on CNBC today, and the comments he made there appeared propitious for the whole entire travel industry.

But, first, here's the bad news: According to Sorenson, the COVID-19 pandemic has already damaged Marriott's business more than did 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis, combined. With hotels closing around the world, the situation facing Marriott today is "dramatically worse than what we saw in those two prior crises," said Sorenson. Revenue in the U.S. alone could be down 90% this quarter, and 75% around the globe.  

Now what

Sorenson went on to predict that while 2020's numbers will be abysmal, business "will come back" after the coronavirus is gone, and 2021 will probably look "a whole lot more like 2019."  

So what does that mean for investors?

In 2019, Marriott earned $1.3 billion in net profit. A recent market capitalization of $25.6 billion means that while we can expect Marriott's P/E ratio to skyrocket later this year as coronavirus-depressed numbers roll onto the income statement, Marriott stock is still trading for less than 20 times what the CEO thinks it might resume earning in 2021.

Let's extend that logic to the other travel companies enjoying rebounds today. Booking Holdings stock might look pretty pricey later this year as well, but if next year it can earn at least what it earned last year, then Booking's forward P/E should be about 10.6, and Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico would be only a bit more expensive at 12.2 times those hypothetical 2021 profits.

Today, investors appear to be betting that this rebound will happen. Proving that it will happen, however, will require waiting for another year.