3 Top Tourism Picks for 2021

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The potential of a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer jazzed the stock market the other day and sent shares of companies in what analysts call the “reopen trade” soaring while those that benefited from the pandemic lockdowns tumbled.

The travel and tourism industry was wrecked by the stay-at-home orders imposed during the coronavirus outbreak, but has been limping back to life in anticipation of the recovery to come.

Investors shouldn’t get sucked into the euphoria just yet, though, because there’s a long way to go before vaccinations are widely available and business won’t return to normal for some time to come. It’s likely the stocks that were soaring on the news will quickly return to earth, but here are three travel and tourism stocks that ought to be on investors’ radars for 2021.

Image source: Getty Images.

Booking Holdings

Online travel agency Booking Holdings (NASDAQ:BKNG) saw its business crushed from the onset of the pandemic as people stopped traveling and taking vacations, forcing it to close global offices and eliminate a quarter of its workforce.

Although Booking is doggedly trying to rebound, and its latest earnings report shows significant sequential improvement, even CEO Glenn Fogel admits it “will likely be years, and not quarters, before the travel market returns to pre-COVID volumes.”

But Booking has the financial wherewithal to weather the storm. It has $14.9 billion in cash and investments, and generated almost $850 million in free cash flow last quarter. It does have substantial debt, too, some $10.8 billion at the end of the third quarter, but with a highly variable cost structure and a strong liquidity position, the online travel agent is ready to benefit as consumers look to travel once more.

Walt Disney

Walt Disney‘s (NYSE:DIS) business units are broadly diverse, but remain inextricably linked to one another. Its movie studios produce films that become TV shows and theme park rides, helping to sell advertising, tickets, and subscriptions and boosting the entertainment giant’s bottom line.

This year it was revealed just how entwined all those components are as movie theaters and studios closed, theme parks went dark, and advertising budgets were slashed. Disney’s fiscal third quarter, ended in June, showed total revenue tumbled 42% and profits plunged 94% year over year.

That it was still able to be profitable, though, shows resilience, and it found new outlets to sustain itself, like the Disney+ streaming service. It was fortuitous the service launched just ahead of the pandemic so it had a captive audience when the lockdowns came, but by all accounts has been an amazing success in itself, one that ought to benefit Disney for years to come.

The groundwork has already been laid for a stronger economy, and as it reopens, Disney should recapture its lost opportunities.

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean (NYSE:RCL) might be more narrowly focused than Disney, but that made the impact of the no-sail orders from global health regulators all the more devastating. It was natural for its stock to surge nearly 30% on news of a possible vaccine as it suggested it would be able to take to the high seas once more, but having already canceled nearly all cruises for the rest of the year, it was a premature celebration.

But it does give the cruise ship operator hope for tomorrow. And tomorrow can’t come soon enough for Royal Caribbean, which just reported its third consecutive quarterly loss of $1 billion or more and said the next quarter wasn’t looking too good either.

Although the cruise operator said half of its customers requested cash refunds after their cruises were canceled, it also means half have agreed to future cruise credits or rebooked for later cruises. That means consumers still want to sail, and as more ports of call open next year, Royal Caribbean may find calm waters on which to sail.