What happened

Shares of travel-booking and services companies have skyrocketed today on news that Pfizer and BioNTech have made meaningful progress in the development of a potential COVID-19 vaccine. The travel industry has been among the most devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, and the announcement represents a step toward the sector's recovery. Here's how several prominent travel stocks were trading as of 1:20 p.m. EST:

So what

Many stocks across the travel industry, including airlines and cruise lines, have popped today on the hope of travel demand returning to normal levels, even though the vaccine candidate is still in clinical trials and not expected to be widely available until late 2021.

Person using a laptop to searching a travel-booking site

Image source: Getty Images.

Booking Holdings, which operates leading travel-booking platforms like Priceline and KAYAK, among others, has been hammered by the COVID-19 crisis. The company reported third-quarter earnings results last week, and they showed that gross travel bookings declined by a wrenching 47%, while revenue fell by 48%. The dire figures were mostly expected, though, and the stock rose modestly following the release.

"When we think about the timing and shape of this recovery, we continue to believe that a key milestone will be a widely distributed vaccine or effective treatment, which will give people confidence that it is safe to travel," Booking CEO Glenn Fogel said last week. "While we are encouraged by the news of progress being made on this front, we understand that it will take time to produce and distribute any vaccine on a global basis to achieve effectiveness."

TripAdvisor also reported third-quarter earnings on the same day as Booking, and many of its metrics were just as gloomy. Total revenue was down 65% and the company swung to a net loss. TripAdvisor's revenue primarily consists of travel-related advertising and bookings.

"We're looking forward to 2021, we're looking forward to hopefully on the medical side seeing progress, a vaccine being rolled out, and we're looking forward to a recovery of the travel market, but in the meantime it's patchy and we're seeing that right now in Q4," CFO Ernst Teunissen noted on the conference call with analysts.

Smaller peer Trivago reported the biggest decline among these three companies. Revenue in the third quarter plummeted by 76% as referral revenue dried up. Trivago's business is concentrated in developed countries in Europe and the Americas, where coronavirus cases have been spiking and spurring government restrictions.

Now what

Pfizer and BioNTech currently expect to produce 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 before ramping up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021. Fogel warned last week that he expects it to take "years for travel to fully recover."

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