It has been a tough year for vacation rental giant Airbnb (ABNB 2.43%). The general bear market and growing pessimism about the future of travel spending have pushed the stock down 49% year to date.

With 2022 coming to an end, many investors are wondering if Airbnb will fall further in the new year or if it's headed for a recovery in 2023. Let's take a closer look and see.

A closer look at Airbnb today

Airbnb is the largest vacation rental listing platform in the world with over 4 million hosts offering short- and long-term stays in virtually every country. Despite the stock's beaten-up share price, the home-sharing platform had one of its best years ever. The return of travel in 2021 and 2022 helped its revenue, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), and net income grow in the double digits year over year.

Many investors were worried its massive growth would come to a screeching halt as consumers slowed spending. After all, travel is often one of the first things people cut back on if budgets are tightening. But travel spending remains high. As of the third quarter of 2022, nightly bookings were up 25% compared to the year before, and 2022 holiday travel is expected to reach pre-pandemic levels.

Many young start-ups like Airbnb aren't profitable in the first few years. But Airbnb is already wildly profitable. The company has grown its free cash flow by 519% since its IPO while growing its operating margins by 138%. This puts the company in a strong position to maintain healthy growth in 2023 and beyond, but that doesn't mean its share price will reflect that.

2023 could be a mixed bag

The stock is down roughly 50% year to date through no fault of its own. In fact, the company repeatedly beat earnings estimates and delivered absolutely stellar growth for shareholders. But general sentiment from investors on the outlook of the economy and markets often guides share-price movement more than the actual performance of the company. That means 2023 could be another tough year for Airbnb if recession worries continue or if a recession actually ensues.

The Motley Fool takes a long-term approach to investing, recommending investors buy and hold stocks for five years or more. Airbnb is no exception to this rule. The stock could have a tough year ahead, but if we think long-term about the future of this vacation rental platform, then a recovery seems inevitable. 

It has plenty of cash on hand to cover its operations in the near future; even if a recession were to negatively impact travel spending. It's also releasing new features like Airbnb Categories and AirCover to promote its listings and gain more bookings. New strategies for attracting and retaining guests should help it sustain its earnings and growth over the long term. 

Airbnb is also benefiting from a growing number of long-term renters on the platform thanks to remote working. In the third quarter of 2022, stays over one month long accounted for roughly 20% of its bookings. These bookings aren't something that would likely stop in the event of a recession.

Right now it trades around 27 times its forward earnings, which is a steal of a deal compared to other high-growth tech stocks, which have price-to-earnings ratios ranging from 30 times to as much as 220 times their forward earnings. I personally believe today's low share price makes for an excellent opportunity to buy this high-growth stock. Just remain patient with its timeline for share-price recovery. If all goes well for Airbnb, it could make investors a fortune over the next decade.