Proving once again that smaller doesn't necessarily mean more upside, Chinese travel portal eLong (NASDAQ:LONG) failed to keep pace with market leader Ctrip (NASDAQ:CTRP) in the second quarter.

We digested Ctrip's numbers last week. Now that we have eLong's report, let's see how they compare.

  • Ctrip posted a 52% surge in net revenues to $37.8 million. All three of its travel categories -- hotel, airline ticketing, and packaged tour bookings -- grew by at least 45%.
  • eLong saw its top line climb just 23% to $10.3 million. No travel category grew at a 45% clip, and the company stopped selling tour packages last month.

No, it doesn't look good for eLong. Does it get better on the way to the bottom line? Well ...

  • Ctrip earnings soared from $0.11 a share to $0.17 a share, or $0.22 per share after you back out stock-based compensation overhead. That was well ahead of where analysts were standing, at $0.15 per share.
  • eLong wound up posting a wider operating loss than it did a year earlier.

OK, maybe it's not fair to pit eLong against Ctrip. On its own, eLong's report wouldn't look too shabby, beyond the spotty profitability. And that should improve as eLong grows its air and hotel bookings.

Yet value hunters might want to pit one company against the other. Ctrip commands 10 times the market cap, despite generating more than three times the revenue. With next year's Olympic Games coming to Beijing, it's hard to fathom eLong not growing at a healthy pace over the next few quarters. 

eLong's balance sheet is also blessed with $153.8 million -- or $6.06 per American Depositary Share -- in cash. That's more than half of its market cap. Ctrip is flush with greenery, too, though if we go with enterprise value instead of market cap, Ctrip trades at an even richer multiple to eLong.

There are differences, of course. By its own admission, eLong is not happy with its performance this past quarter. Things like a dip in gross margins can be explained away by factors such as higher compensation for its call-center employees and a spike in lower-margin airfare bookings, but this company should still be making more of its golden opportunity.

It's a pity, because investors are buying the travel-boom story -- they're bidding up shares of proven leaders such as Ctrip and Home Inns & Hotels (NASDAQ:HMIN) to healthy market premiums.

Hop on the ride, won't you, eLong? You're a travel specialist. Find a way to get there.

Fly through related Foolishness:

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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. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy, and it's eLong one.