Airbnb's (ABNB -3.04%) disruptive potential can't be understated.

In less than 15 years of existence, the alternative accommodations business has completely upended the hospitality industry, similar to how Uber changed the way people move around. Even more impressive is how Airbnb simply used existing technological infrastructure, like smartphones and digital payments, to connect renters and travelers in a way that wasn't offered before. 

Now, investors have an opportunity to own this disrupter at a deep discount. As of this writing, shares of Airbnb are 43% off their all-time high, which was set in February 2021. Does this mean now is the right time to buy this growth stock? Here's what I think. 

Take a closer look at the valuation 

After Airbnb's initial public offering in December 2010, the stock immediately climbed 50% in about two months as investor optimism went through the roof for this travel industry fledgling. But the stock has bounced up and down since then and has generally trended downward since then. This year, however, the shares are up 45%, easily outpacing both the Nasdaq Composite and S&P 500 by a wide margin. 

Investors might assume that Airbnb's monster recent performance might make the stock too expensive, but this isn't exactly the case. Its shares are trading hands at a price-to-earnings ratio of 44 right now. This looks like a steep price to pay, especially considering that Airbnb's current valuation is higher than that of competitors like Booking Holdings and Marriott International. 

But given the company's tremendous growth, the valuation could be warranted. In 2022, Airbnb's revenue totaled $8.4 billion, up 228% from less than $2.6 billion generated in 2017. Even more noteworthy is that during this five-year stretch, Airbnb's bottom line swung from a $70 million loss in 2017 to a $1.9 billion profit in 2022. All this has occurred in the midst of a global pandemic and inflation that's at levels not seen in decades -- headwinds that should crush travel companies. 

Airbnb's ability to thrive over the past few years further bolsters the argument that it might be a good idea for investors to look past the seemingly elevated valuation. 

Strong momentum and future prospects 

Airbnb's recent momentum is extremely strong, highlighting the pent-up demand for travel in spite of the price of everything seemingly going up. Revenue for the fourth quarter of 2022 totaled $1.9 billion, up 24% year over year. Net income of $319 million was a Q4 record for the business. And Airbnb generated $455 million of free cash flow in the same period.

These strong financials were boosted by $13.5 billion of gross booking value and 88.2 million nights and experiences booked, both up 20% versus Q4 2021. 

Airbnb's historical gains are very impressive, but the future looks very promising as well. Management sees the healthy demand for its platform continuing this year. Its first-quarter 2023 revenue forecast of $1.75 billion to $1.82 billion exceeded Wall Street's expectation of $1.69 billion. In the year-ago period, travel was negatively affected by the omicron coronavirus variant, as well as the war in Ukraine. The current period will benefit from broad-based geographic gains. 

More specifically, the Asia-Pacific region, which is still below pre-pandemic 2019 levels, was the fastest-growing region in the most recent quarter. And with restrictions easing in China, cross-border travel is set to continue picking up. "Chinese outbound travelers is something that we feel very bullish on for over the long term," CFO Dave Stephenson said on the Q4 2022 earnings call. 

The recent momentum is wonderful, but Airbnb's long-term opportunity is jaw-dropping. The business estimates its total addressable market at $3.4 trillion, a gargantuan figure that includes short-term stays, long-term stays, and experiences. With 2022 gross booking value of $63.2 billion, Airbnb's market share of less than 2% demonstrates a massive growth runway as we look ahead. 

While it's ultimately up to investors to decide for themselves if Airbnb's strong momentum and impressive outlook are worthy of a price-to-earnings multiple of 44, the facts certainly lean in favor of buying the stock right now and holding on for the long term.