It's no big secret that travel is beginning to heat up again. Today, Canada's Four Seasons (NYSE:FS), an upscale hotel chain, reported fourth-quarter earnings, including a 50% boost in earnings, showing that pampering oneself might be back on the program.

It's not the first hotel name that has reported an improving climate after last year. Four Seasons, echoing other hotel outfits, said in its conference call (courtesy of CCBN StreetEvents) that the first half of this past year was "arguably the worst operating environment ever for lodging companies."

Indeed, the variables at work that tempted people to stay home were the escalating war in Iraq, SARS, and an economy that didn't give many people the feeling they had disposable income for traveling. A hotel provider like Four Seasons has to suffer quite a bit during difficult times, given its upscale reputation. When it comes to the improving horizon, both Marriott (NYSE:MAR) and Hilton (NYSE:HLT) have had the same observation.

Four Seasons reported fourth-quarter earnings of $11.7 million, or $0.32 per share, compared to $7.6 million, or $0.22 per share, for the same quarter the year before (the company reports in Canadian currency). Revenues, however, drifted downward by 2.2%, to $75.2 million from $76.9 million. Both Hilton and Marriott recently reported higher revenues.

In addition to Hilton and Marriott, Starwood (NYSE:HOT) also predicts an improving year. While it said that it needs its revenue per available room (RevPAR) to improve 4% to 5% to keep operating profit margins at the same levels, it reported that RevPAR for last year was up only 1%. Four Seasons' fourth-quarter RevPAR came in at 11.9%; it said it expects to be within industry guidance for RevPAR improvements in 2004, at 3% to 6%. Starwood recently predicted RevPAR improvements of 5% to 6%, compared to Hilton's and Marriott's 3% to 4% expectations.

Compared to its peers, Four Seasons' slower revenues and average RevPAR guidance make it seem a less compelling bet for the improving travel horizon. Meanwhile, stocks in the space have all gotten bid to the high end of their trading ranges, probably well reflecting enthusiasm for the coming year.

Thinking about treating yourself to a trip? Check out the Fool's Travel Center.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any companies mentioned.