2020 has been a rough year. Many of us are yearning for a long, relaxing vacation as soon as possible. The good news is that, with the economy reopening from its first- and second-quarter lockdowns, that dream could soon become a reality.
The economic reopening also provides an opportunity for risk-tolerant investors to buy into the tourism industry while prices are still low. Today I have two vacation stocks that look poised for a bull run: Walt Disney (DIS -3.20%), a massively diversified entertainment company with a global network of amusement parks, and Penn National Gaming (PENN 0.77%), a casino operator with a foothold in the rapidly growing sports betting industry.
Walt Disney is a blue-chip entertainment giant with a huge presence in media, sports, and tourism. While Disney's parks and experience segment represents around 31% of overall revenue, the company is well diversified. And its entry in the coronavirus-resistant video streaming industry will help shield it from virus-related headwinds in the economy.
Disney's diversification makes the stock a safer tourism bet than companies like Cedar Fair and Six Flags Entertainment that only focus on amusement parks.
Disney reopened its Shanghai Disneyland park on May 11 with limits on attendance, temperature screenings, and other health precautions. These same precautions will be used in other major parks such as Walt Disney World and Disneyland as they open in June and July. While some parks will remain closed until further notice, Disney is quickly returning to operations where it can.
Still, the coronavirus pandemic is far from over, and tourism is still a risky business. So it's a good thing that Disney's direct-to-customer business has performed exceptionally well during the pandemic, with revenue soaring 258% to $4.12 billion in the first quarter. Growth is driven by Disney+, which boasts 54.5 million subscribers; Hulu, with 32.1 million subscribers; and ESPN+, which has 7.9 million subscribers. Disney bundles all three platforms into a cost-efficient package, which could give it an edge over competitors like Netflix that don't offer a live sports component.
Penn National Gaming
Penn National Gaming is a U.S.-based casino and resorts operator that's diversified into the rapidly growing sports betting industry. The stock is a good way to invest in a tourism rebound because it combines a large, brick-and-mortar casino footprint with a targeted digital audience at the beginning stages of monetization.
Penn National's stock was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, but shares have already zoomed up 753% from their March low of $3.75 (as of Friday's close). Nevertheless, with a market cap of just $4.27 billion, Penn National is still a mid-cap company with the potential for continued growth due to its strong business model.
The company has already reopened around 25% of its regional casinos, with plans to open more as the year goes on. So far, reports indicate strong visitor traffic at open casinos in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Nevada, where many of the company's casinos are located. And unlike competitors MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts, Penn National isn't exposed to the challenging Macau market, which is reporting a slow post-lockdown recovery due to continued government restrictions on travel to and from mainland China.
Penn National's aggressive push into the sports betting industry will give it another advantage. In February 2020, the company invested $163 million in a 36% equity stake in millennial-focused digital sports and entertainment platform Barstool Sports. The partnership will provide Penn National with access to a highly targeted audience of 66 million monthly users and could drastically reduce is customer acquisition costs. The company also plans to rebrand its sports betting platform into Barstool Sportsbook and deliver a mobile sports betting app in the third quarter.
A word of caution
Vacation stocks are a high-risk, high-reward investment right now because no one knows what the future holds in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, many travel and tourism companies depend on factors outside their control, such as government restrictions and the progress toward developing a coronavirus vaccine. That said, travel and tourism contribute around 10.4% of global GDP, and the industry is bound to bounce back over the long term.
Investors with a high risk tolerance can take advantage of this opportunity to scoop up the highest-quality, diversified vacation stocks at fair prices to benefit from any future rebound.