Booking travel in China is obviously a growth business. The only real mystery at market leader and Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick Ctrip (NASDAQ:CTRP) is how quickly it is actually growing. On that front, last night's report offered a mixed bag. The company's second-quarter performance thrashed market expectations, but the current quarter will come in shy of Wall Street's top-line projections.

Let's start with the good stuff. Net revenues surged 52% higher to $37.8 million. Earnings per diluted share soared from $0.11 a share to $0.17 a share (or $0.22 per share if you back out stock-based compensation expenses). No matter how you slice it, Ctrip stormed past consensus estimates that were looking for a profit of $0.15 per share on $35.2 million in net revenues.

It was a well-rounded quarter. All three of the major travel types -- hotel, airline tickets, and packaged tour bookings -- grew by 45% or better during the period. Rival eLong (NASDAQ:LONG) reports next week, but it has typically grown a lot slower than its larger competitor.

Tempering the enthusiasm is the company's forecast of 35% top-line growth in the current quarter. Analysts were banking on improvement of 39%. Ctrip tagged the outlook as "conservative guidance," but it was enough to send the shares lower in after-hours trading last night.

Expectations are high for China's travel sector. Ctrip and lodging specialist Home Inns (NASDAQ:HMIN) trade at some of the highest earnings multiples in the region. The premiums have typically been well-earned. The country's booming economy is giving the world's most populous nation greater flexibility to travel. Next year's Olympic Games in Beijing will be an obvious growth catalyst.

It's a far kinder climate than investors are finding closer to home. Orbitz (NYSE:OWW) went public less than three weeks ago, yet it is trading 18% below its $15 IPO price. Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE) is holding up considerably better, though its second-quarter gross bookings rose just 14% higher. (NASDAQ:PCLN) has been a market leader, but we'll know a little more after the company posts its quarterly results tonight.

Ctrip offers greater upside than slower stateside players, but that opportunity doesn't come cheap. Trading at nearly 50 times next year's Wall Street profit targets, the market won't forgive mistakes. Thankfully, Ctrip isn't prone to disappointment. It has beaten expectations in four of the past five quarters. If the current quarter's guidance truly is conservative, this morning's dip may prove to be both an overreaction and a buying opportunity.

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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. Rick does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy.