After being devastated by the pandemic, Airbnb (NASDAQ:ABNB) is in a position to benefit from economic reopenings. Many folks have stayed home a lot more than they would have liked to over the last year and are ready to get out and travel. 

To make the case for Airbnb better, many travelers prefer it over staying at a hotel. Airbnb offers more selection in more geographies, and very often, it's less expensive than hotels. For those reasons, it's a compelling growth stock for long-term investors to consider. 

A man looking at a computer screen pen in hand.

Image source: Getty Images.

Better days ahead

The rebound from the pandemic is taking shape, and it looks strong. Airbnb reported second-quarter results on Thursday, Aug. 12, revealing several metrics above the levels from before the outbreak. Plus, forward-looking figures like unearned fees, which are the fees for reservations made but not yet experienced, are over 40% above 2019 levels.

Moreover, one consequence of the pandemic could provide long-standing benefits to Airbnb. The expansion of remote working opportunities will allow people to travel more often than before. If you are not tied to an office five days per week, you can move from place to place; so long as you have an internet connection, you can get work done. 

Indeed, long-term stays of 28 days or more are the fastest-growing segment for Airbnb. According to a company survey, 81% of long-term stay guests in Q2 2021 said they plan to book another long-term stay in the coming year.

This is an area where Airbnb has an advantage over hotels. People staying somewhere long-term likely prefer to have amenities like a kitchen and laundry room, which are not always included in hotel rooms unless you stay in pricier rooms. The proliferation of long-term stays as a result of increasing remote work favors Airbnb. 

Should you buy Airbnb stock? 

Airbnb is doing an excellent job rebounding from the pandemic. The company reduced expenses, so it will likely operate more efficiently in the aftermath. And it's only in the beginning stages of capturing market share in the estimated $1.2 trillion hotels and resort industry.

A chart comparing price to sales ratio of Airbnb, Hyatt, and Marriott.

Data source: Ycharts.

The stock is trading at a forward price-to-sales ratio of 17.48. That's a huge premium to other travel companies like Hyatt Hotels (NYSE:H)and Marriott International (NASDAQ:MAR), which will also benefit from the rebound in travel. The important difference to note here is that the hotel operator business model does not have the same potential as the asset-light business model Airbnb is running. Over the last decade, Hyatt earned an average operating profit margin of 5.7% and Marriott 8.8%. It's expensive to build and maintain hotels, and you're limited to the economies of scale you can reach.

In contrast, Airbnb builds and maintains a platform that brings hosts and guests together and takes a fee from all bookings. It can grow by encouraging hosts to list more properties for more nights. As it expands, its operating profit margins can grow much larger than the less than 10% earned by hoteliers. It does not need to add a maintenance staff to go along with each new property that gets listed on its website. 

It might be expensive, but Airbnb stock comes with the potential to make the price worthwhile

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.