Investors searching high and low for ways to cash in on China's booming economy will ultimately find themselves weighing the merits of Ctrip (NASDAQ:CTRP). As a travel services provider, its allure is obvious. China's GDP has been growing at a 10% annualized clip over the past four years.

That's impressive even before you begin to toss other factors into the blender, like the fact that China remains the world's most populous nation with 1.3 billion residents and that just 10% -- a mere sliver -- have online connectivity. Growth smoothie, anyone?

Citizens are slowly accruing disposable income. The Internet is gaining traction as a tool for finding ways to spend that newfound money. Travel and leisure stand to be huge beneficiaries of a perpetually improving China, and Ctrip offers front-row seats.

Want proof? Consider Home Inns (NASDAQ:HMIN). The Chinese lodging chain went public at $13.80 a share last month and soared 63% higher on its first day of trading. The stock has continued to inch higher, and is now just a good trading day away from doubling its IPO price.

About last night
It is under that favorable backdrop that Ctrip dropped its third-quarter results on investors yesterday. Net revenue soared 47% higher to hit $26.3 million. Earnings clocked in flat with the $0.25 a share it had generated a year earlier, but they would have risen to $0.30 a share before stock-based compensation expenses. Wall Street was only expecting Ctrip to earn $0.25 a share on $26.3 million in revenue.

Margins may have come in a little light over last year's showing, but that was the result of the company's revenue mix. Airline ticketing has been growing quicker than lodging bookings and -- in China as we find domestically -- airfare bookings are a lower-margin endeavor.

Ctrip's costs are also running a bit high due to China's migration from paper ticketing on flights to the domestically ubiquitous e-ticket options. Wait a minute. Aren't paperless transactions supposed to be more cost-efficient? Of course they are, for the airlines at least. In Ctrip's case, the company is spending on marketing campaigns to help educate the consumer as to the convenience of e-tickets.

It sees an opportunity here to blow the market wide open as the company that consumers associate with the paperless revolution. Ctrip is promoting e-tickets to gain mindshare and market share. In an old-school way, that also means that its sales reps are spending more time on each transaction, enlightening the customers.

Wait another minute. Isn't this What's the deal with the phone? Well, that's how it goes -- for now -- in China. Just 30% of Ctrip's transactions are actually completed online. It's just like, (NASDAQ:BIDU) with its regional network of local ad sellers for its leading search engine, over the more centralized and often faceless paid-search interaction that the major portals exhibit stateside.

Put me in coach, first-class investor
Despite an after-hours dip in Ctrip trading, the prospects for growth are amazing here. We're not just talking about the equivalent of buying into a Travelocity or an Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE) in its infancy, when the "lookers to bookers" ratio was all the rage as consumers were still weary of conducting financial transactions online. There are so many other dynamics working in China's -- and Ctrip's -- favor.

The company expects to grow its top line by 40% in the current quarter, but there is little reason to believe that growth will decelerate much more than that over the next few years. The travel industry in China alone is growing at a double-digit percentage clip, and Ctrip has been nimble enough to grow its market share in a perpetually growing pie.

As it stands, most of Ctrip's revenue is still based on transactions in China's five largest cities. There is so much potential for growth as all of China ascends hand in hand with its brawny economy. The company also isn't doing a whole lot when it comes to international travel. Economic and political trends are pointing to dramatic improvement there, too.

Naturally, there are plenty of ways to play the leisure boom in China. The first wave of investing went toward companies providing cell phone entertainment, like Sohu (NASDAQ:SOHU), and Internet multiplayer gaming, like NetEase (NASDAQ:NTES). There are still smaller, mostly undiscovered equities like employment classifieds specialist 51job (NASDAQ:JOBS).

Ctrip offers a more concentrated bet on the growth of corporate and leisure travel. It's still pretty much a ground-floor opportunity. Even though the stock has been singled out by Tom Gardner in the Hidden Gems newsletter service and Ctrip remains one of the more active entries in Motley Fool CAPS, it's still early in the game.

Investors? This is your first boarding call.

Ctrip is a Hidden Gems stock pick, while NetEase is a selection in the Motley Fool Rule Breakers research service.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been a fan of China's high-margin stocks for a long time. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. T he Fool has a disclosure policy.