With its recent IPO, many hope Airbnb (NASDAQ:ABNB) will deliver five-star returns to investors. Given the rising popularity of its short-term vacation rentals, this stock could certainly deliver for early shareholders.

However, some might be wondering if it can also turn some of those shareholders into millionaires. Let's take a closer look to see if this consumer discretionary stock could offer investors' portfolios such luxurious accommodations.

Airbnb delivered growth ... until the pandemic

The pandemic hammered the travel industry across the board, and Airbnb was no exception. For the first nine months of 2020, revenue dropped by 32% year over year as more travelers opted to stay home to protect themselves from COVID-19.

Still, its financials before the pandemic showed tremendous potential. In full-year 2019, revenue had increased 32%. Airbnb recorded strong annual revenue growth for several years, and it even reported an operating profit in 2018. This would have likely persisted into 2019 had the company not invested more heavily in product development and sales and marketing that year.

Young girl running anxiously into her room at a vacation home as her parents watch in the background.

Image source: Getty Images

Moreover, Technavio estimates the vacation rental industry will grow at a compound annual rate of 7% through 2024. The fact Airbnb outperformed the industry before COVID-19 -- continuously taking market share in the process -- should bode well for its future.

Nonetheless, the concern for investors lies in the current stock price. After declaring an IPO price of $68 per share, Airbnb closed at almost $145 per share on its first day of trading. Airbnb stock trades just above that level as of this writing, giving it a market cap of approximately $89 billion. 

In other words, Airbnb nearly cleared the $100 billion market cap milestone before most individual investors ever had a chance to buy the stock. So even if an Airbnb bull buys $10,000 worth of shares right now, Airbnb would need to reach a market cap of $8.9 trillion, about four times the size of Apple, to achieve the 100-fold return needed to turn that initial investment into $1 million. Such a trajectory is highly unlikely.

Airbnb has transformed its industry

However, looking past its high valuation, Airbnb does have the key characteristic I look for in a millionaire-maker stock -- it leads the push for industry transformation. In other words, the company has been in the driver's seat as it fundamentally transforms its industry and expectations for consumers.

Airbnb brought this level of change to lodging. Hotels were once the primary option for vacationers, but small property owners have answered the call for unique and comfortable short-term rentals. Although companies like Expedia, Booking Holdings, and TripAdvisor do also compete in this market, their roots and businesses are still tied mostly to hotels.

HomeToGo and its subsidiary Tripping.com is the only one offering this service exclusively and on a competing scale. Interestingly, Tripping.com boasts over 12 million properties on its platform, compared with about six million active listings for Airbnb. However, as the industry pioneer and publicly-traded option, Airbnb has captivated the market.

Is Airbnb a millionaire maker?

Given the company's pre-pandemic growth rate and leadership in a still up-and-coming industry, I believe Airbnb will deliver healthy gains for its shareholders. But at its current market cap, this is not a millionaire-maker stock for the average investor.

As the world moves past COVID-19, the travel industry will slowly recover, and investors should track the progress Airbnb makes in restoring its booking volumes throughout 2021. While the company might not qualify as a millionaire maker, it can still help investors afford nicer accommodations in the long run as it continues to redefine the market for vacation rentals.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.