Get ready -- the travel market is about to explode.
Following the approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, President Biden announced that every American who wants the coronavirus vaccine will be able to get it by the end of May. That means the pandemic should be over just in time for the peak travel season this summer.
There are already plenty of signs of pent-up demand in the sector: Markets like Australia that have controlled COVID-19 have seen surges in travel demand, while Booking Holdings recently said that room nights booked in Israel are up double digits from 2019 levels since the country announced that it had vaccinated half of its population.
What's the best way to invest in this erupting market? Keep reading to see three top travel stocks to buy today.
Airbnb (ABNB 2.62%), the leading home-sharing platform, needs little introduction. The company's name is synonymous with home-sharing, and its brand is often used as both noun and verb.
It benefits from operating as an e-commerce marketplace, a model that tends to be highly profitable at scale, as it takes a commission on bookings. The company has slimmed down its cost structure, laying off about a quarter of its employees last spring during the nadir of the lockdowns and trimming back on marketing and other costs. Despite strong headwinds from the pandemic, the company delivered nearly $500 million in adjusted EBITDA in the second half of 2020, leaving behind any concerns about profitability.
Airbnb also blew past expectations in its first quarterly report as a publicly traded company, and could be the biggest winner of the economic reopening -- it will benefit from both increased travel demand and new hosts looking to make an extra buck after the economic shock of the pandemic. The rise of remote work will also be a long-term driver of the company's growth, as more young people will take advantage of long-term Airbnb stays to travel while they're getting paid. At the same time, they can also rent out their own homes on Airbnb while they travel.
The stock may look pricey after its post-IPO surge, but revenue and profits are likely to skyrocket in the second half of the year, as analysts still seem to be underestimating the company's growth. It should be able to blow past modest analyst estimates of just 39% revenue growth for the year.
Disney (DIS 1.84%) is the rare travel stock that has actually thrived during the pandemic. The success of Disney+ provided the company with growth while it got hit hard on multiple fronts by the pandemic -- theme parks closed, movie theaters shut down, and live sports even went off the air for several months, affecting ESPN.
However, a significant portion of the company's business is related to travel, namely its theme parks and resorts. In fiscal 2019, the last year before the coronavirus hit, parks were its biggest business segment, bringing in $26.2 billion in revenue, or 38% of the company's total that year.
Disney's brand and theme park experience are built on the latter being "the happiest place on earth," and that should make its parks popular destinations once it's safe to travel. Many people will be looking to reward their families with trips to a Disney park, hoping to forget about a difficult year. At the same time, travelers whose 2020 trips were cancelled will be looking to make up for them this year. The economic impact of the upcoming stimulus package and the reopening of the economy should also help give Americans extra spending money, encouraging trips to places like Disney World.
Once it's safe to travel, Disney's parks and resorts are also likely to see record revenue and profits, continuing to drive the stock higher.
Airbnb and Disney are some of the biggest names in travel, but if you're looking for an under-the-radar option in the sector Dufry (DUFRY 1.89%) looks like an appealing choice. You've probably never heard of Dufry, but if you travel, you've likely been to some of its retail establishments, including Hudson convenience stores in travel hubs and duty-free shops in airports.
Not surprisingly, Dufry's business has crumbled during the pandemic. But it should spring back to life once it's safe to travel again, especially as international travel picks up, as spending on travel retail is highly correlated with passenger throughput. During the crisis Alibaba also took a 6.1% stake in the company, which will help Dufry penetrate the massive Chinese market. That also ties Dufry's fortunes to the world's biggest e-commerce marketplace, a clear win for the travel retailer.
Unlike other travel stocks, which are already trading above their pre-crisis levels, Dufry is still down more than 30% from where it was at the start of 2020, giving the stock upside potential of more than 40% if it reclaims those levels. Given the expected demand coming in the travel sector, that shouldn't be difficult.