Airbnb (ABNB -1.10%) makes it easier for folks worldwide to find the accommodations they are looking for when they travel. Of course, the company suffered a downturn at the pandemic onset when fewer people were interested in leaving their homes.
However, Airbnb is recovering quickly and emerging from the disruptions caused by the pandemic as a more robust and efficient business. As of this writing, the stock is trading at $172; could it hit $200 in 2022?
The rise of the omicron variant could be a headwind for Airbnb
Airbnb's business is rebounding as a higher portion of the world's population is vaccinated against COVID-19. Over 9 billion doses of COVID vaccines have been administered thus far around the world, with millions more daily. According to Bloomberg, at the current vaccination rate, 75% of the world's population could have at least one shot in three months.
Still, the prevalence of the omicron variant has given rise to a new surge of infection, reaching record levels in many parts of the world. Airbnb has yet to report financial results since this new variant has taken hold, but there is a probability that it may decrease travel demand and harm Airbnb's business to some degree.
The magnitude of negative impact from the omicron variant on Airbnb's business is likely to be the primary determinant of the stock's return in 2022. Airbnb was well on its way to recovery before the omicron variant emerged. In its most recent quarter, ended Sept. 30, 2021, Airbnb reported revenue that was 36% higher than in the same quarter 2019, and net income that was 213% higher.
Airbnb arguably offers a superior service to travelers than a traditional hotel or resort. With over 4 million hosts on its platform, travelers are more likely to find what they are looking for in their price range. These hosts are from all parts of the world with several unique types of places to stay -- from entire homes to rooms in an apartment to converted garages. That's in contrast to hotels and resorts, which typically only have locations in popular destinations and limited choices on room size and type.
Airbnb's stock would have to rise 16% to hit $200
Moreover, Airbnb's business model has the potential for higher returns compared to hotels and resorts. Airbnb does not own or operate any rental properties. Instead, it runs the platform where hosts can list places to stay that guests can then reserve. Airbnb takes fees on each transaction.
This asset-light model can be more profitable than operating expensive hotels that need a reasonably large staff on-premise to manage and accommodate guests. That can get inefficient because typically, the highest-demand travel destinations also have the highest-priced wage rates -- think Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, etc.
In contrast, Airbnb is not constrained to hire support staff from the region that guests are staying in. Investors got a sneak peek at Airbnb's potential profitability in its third quarter when it earned a net income of $834 million on revenue of $2.2 billion.
Airbnb's stock would have to increase by 16% in 2022 to reach $200. It would be reasonable to say that Airbnb will hit $200 at some point in 2022. Whether or not it goes beyond or sustains that level will largely depend on the direction of the coronavirus pandemic.