People are traveling again in 2021, and no company is better positioned than Airbnb (ABNB 0.49%) to take advantage. In the third quarter, it beat earnings expectations for the second straight quarter and delivered its highest profit ever. 

The latest earnings results were impressive, but there's more to the story. In the earnings report, management stated, "Technologies like Zoom [Video Communications] make it possible to work from home. Airbnb makes it possible to work from any home." This can explain why long-term stays of 28 days or more are Airbnb's fastest-growing category right now, comprising 20% of gross nights booked in the third quarter. 

Here's why the remote work shift is a huge growth opportunity for Airbnb, as well as how the stock is a great vehicle to ride this trend.

A remote worker using a computer while sitting in a home with a scenic view.

Image source: Getty Images.

Enabling a new lifestyle

Great investment opportunities can come about by identifying megatrends that will benefit certain companies. Travel and remote work are joined at the hip, which could be a massive opportunity for Airbnb. By the end of 2021, Gartner estimated that 51% of global knowledge workers would be working remotely. By 2022, nearly a third of global workers will be a mixture of part-time and full-time remote workers. 

Airbnb is well-prepared for the extra demand coming from this trend. Earlier this year, it released more than 50 new features and upgrades to the browsing and booking experience to make planning trips easier and faster for guests to find their ideal destination. It's paying off, as nights and experiences booked on Airbnb's platform grew 29% year over year in the third quarter, which is a major improvement compared to the decline during 2020.

Travel to nonurban destinations is also on the rise, which plays right into the hands of Airbnb. There is a massive selection of over 170,000 unique properties listed on the platform, and searches for these listings nearly doubled in the first half of 2021 over 2019. People are traveling more to rural destinations, with over 40% of gross nights booked during the last quarter within 300 miles of the guest's home. This percentage is up from 32% in Q3 2019.

As the selection and demand increases, it's also boosting the supply of listings, as more people become interested in listing their home or apartment to earn money. Hosts generated a record $12.8 billion in income off their Airbnb listings, which should encourage more supply on the platform and drive further increases in nights booked. Airbnb has a fast-spinning flywheel going here.

Great return potential

Airbnb is helping more people earn extra money and playing a key role in enabling the remote work megatrend at the same time. These trends make this top travel stock a great investment for the long term.

Revenue grew 67% year over year to reach $2.2 billion in the third quarter. Even better was the bottom-line performance, with net income up 280% year over year to $834 million -- the company's highest profit ever -- and this could be just the start of higher profits down the road. 

The shares have been volatile since the initial public offering in December 2020, but Airbnb's recent performance is validating its long-term potential to grow into a large, very profitable business. Management sees its total addressable market in the trillions, including $210 billion for long-term stays alone. That's plenty of upside for a business that is just approaching a $50 billion annual run rate in gross booking value.