Luxury hotel and resort operators Four Seasons (NYSE:FS) and Wyndham International (AMEX:WBR) both reported improved first-quarter results. Revenue per available room (RevPAR), the industry's standard sales measure, was up an extremely strong 14.1% at Four Seasons and a better-than-guidance 4.6% at Wyndham.

The strong sales, however, produced decidedly different results. At Four Seasons, a usually weak first-quarter swung from last year's net loss to an $11.5 million profit. Debt-strapped Wyndham, struggling with a do-or-die restructuring, saw its loss from continuing operations increase to $24.1 million from $20.5 million.

Both companies were upbeat about the upcoming quarter, at least. Four Seasons is looking for a 15% RevPAR boost. Wyndham is shooting for roughly 6% to 7%.

It's when it comes to profits that the outlooks diverge. Analysts expect Four Seasons to earn $1.63 per share in 2005. That's up markedly from the $1.06 it earned in 2003 and puts the stock at 33 times forward earnings. As for Wyndam, analysts expect a loss of $1.56 per share. That's an improvement over the $1.70 the company lost in 2003, but not by much.

Worse, Wyndham is drowning in debt. The company trumpets that its total debt declined $140.6 million over the past quarter but, at $2.5 billion, that is still twice its 2003 sales. By comparison, Four Seasons actually has more cash than debt. Hilton (NYSE:HLT), Fairmont (NYSE:FHR), and Starwood (NYSE:HOT) all carry debt about equal to annual revenue, and Marriott (NYSE:MAR) considerably less.

Still, if you had to pick just one, Wyndham's most troubling operating weakness may be the 49.6% occupancy at its luxury resorts. That figure appears to be rising, but it is clearly unacceptable.

With all the bad news, you would expect the stock to be sucking wind. Guess again! It's up some 500% over the past year. As a result, Wyndam is not as cheap as it appears on a price-to-sales basis, and now trades at an enterprise value (market cap + debt - cash) to revenue (EVR) multiple of 2.2 times. And it still faces operating losses in the years ahead.

Wyndham may have been a 52-week hero, and the run may not be over. But whenever you have debt, you have risk, and that's clearly the case here.

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Fool contributor W.D. Crotty does not own stock in any of the companies mentioned.