Business travel stocks can’t get enough momentum as travel remains depressed compared to pre-pandemic levels.
American Express (AXP): Arguably the company most associated with business travel.
Booking Holdings (BKNG): The industry leader when it comes to travel booking websites.
Choice Hotels (CHH): Dominant when it comes to mid-level and economy hotel properties in the U.S.
Leisure travel might be back, but it’s a different story when it comes to business or corporate travel. According to data from Statista, spending on business travel in America reached a low of $131 billion in 2020, a decline of $160 billion from pre-pandemic 2019.
Business travel in the U.S. is not expected to recover to pre-Covid-19 levels until at least 2024, and it could be several years after that before it surpasses the amount spent in 2019.
The reasons for the business travel slump include the rise in popularity of video conferencing, the persistent work-from-home trend and corporate America cutting back on business travel budgets in favor of other initiatives.
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This situation has kept the stocks of many travel companies depressed for a long period and made a meaningful and sustained recovery difficult.
As a result, here are three stocks being battered by bearish business travel trends.
Battered Business Travel Stocks: American Express (AXP)
Credit card company American Express (NYSE:AXP) is probably more closely associated with business travel than any other company. For decades the New York City-based company has positioned itself as the corporate credit card.
Clever marketing slogans such as “Don’t leave home without it” have helped make AMEX cards a household name and familiar to millions of people all over the world. But with people continuing to work remotely or in hybrid home and office situations, and with the continued popularity of video conferences, American Express has had a difficult time recovering from the global pandemic.
Business executives and sale teams are traveling less today than at anytime in the past. And that has hurt AXP stock and prevented it from making a sustained recovery. In the last month, American Express’ share price has fallen 6% to now trade at just under $180 a share. The stock is currently 11% below its 52-week high of right around $200.
While business travel remains stalled, American Express has been getting some help in recent months from a resumption in spending by small and medium-sized businesses. American Express recently reported a first quarter profit of $2.73 per share compared with the $2.44 that Wall Street expected, helped by business spending.
Booking Holdings (BKNG)
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Norwalk, Connecticut-based Booking Holdings (NASDAQ:BKNG) operates multiple websites that enable individuals and corporations to book travel. These websites include Booking.com, Priceline.com and Kayak.com, among several others.
The company’s websites are available in more than 200 countries and operate in 40 different languages. However, the supposed return of travel has not helped Booking Holdings stock so far this year. Neither has the slow to return business travel segment. Year-to-date (YTD), BKNG stock is down 6% at $2,253 per share.
Yet despite the pullback, some on Wall Street remain bullish on BKNG stock, especially should corporate travel resume in earnest later this year or into 2023. Tigress Financial recently placed a “buy” rating on the stock and placed a price target of $3,210.00 on the shares, implying 42% upside from current levels.
In a note to clients, Tigress Financial said that “BKNG continues to benefit from advertising, merchant, and other business lines experiencing strong growth as well.” Booking is scheduled to report first-quarter earnings on May 4.
Battered Business Travel Stocks: Choice Hotels (CHH)
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Choice Hotels (NYSE:CHH) is one of the biggest hotel operators in the world. Today, Choice Hotels operates more than 7,000 hotel properties in 41 countries under brands such as the Quality Inn, Econo Lodge and Comfort Inn.
The pandemic has been difficult on Choice Hotels, with many of its properties around the world forced to shutdown or operate at reduced capacity. While the hotel chain has been recovering, CHH stock is down 8% on the year at $143 a share.
The company is hoping for a summer travel boom but could also use a lift from a strong return in business or corporate travel. Choice Hotels currently has a 24% market share of middle-market hotels and a 20% market share of economy hotel properties. Plus, 80% of the company’s properties are situated in the U.S., which is the market seeing the strongest travel recovery around the world. Choice Hotels also has a unique business model wherein it franchises the majority of its properties, which leads to higher profit margins.
On the date of publication, Joel Baglole did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
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