What happened

TripAdvisor (TRIP -0.19%) shareholders lost ground to the market this week. The travel-platform giant reported lackluster sales for the fiscal third quarter, while projecting a soft finish to the year. TripAdvisor also announced the retirement of its CEO, which adds uncertainty to its outlook.

So what

Sales doubled to $303 million in Q3, which was just below Wall Street expectations. TripAdvisor saw a solid rebound in travel demand trends, but traffic on its network remains significantly below 2019 levels. Monthly user traffic, a key growth metric, sat at 76%, compared to two years ago.

Passengers wearing masks on a flight.

Image source: Getty Images.

The good news is that this figure has improved significantly over the last two quarters, rising from 55% in Q1 to 70% in Q2 before reaching 76% this past quarter.

Now what

The company lowered expectations for the fourth quarter, which caught many investors by surprise. The growth rebound isn't expected to materially improve as compared to Q3, executives said in a shareholder letter. "The pandemic-related challenges continue to add near-term uncertainty to the speed of our recovery," management noted.

That uncertainty was amplified by news that CEO and co-founder Steve Kaufer is leaving the company in 2022. After over 20 years with TripAdvisor, Kaufer said he believes the time has come for him to step away from the business.

The search for a successor has already started, but investors might want to wait before buying into TripAdvisor shares following this week's slump. With growth trends cloudy today and the management team a question mark heading into 2022, the stock seems like a risky bet to take on the eventual rebound on the way for the travel industry.