With a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, is it time to buy hotel stocks? Hammered as the novel coronavirus spread across the globe, major names in the lodging space have since made a partial recovery. But, what is it going to take to move these names even higher?
That remains questionable. On one hand, if we have a vaccine by the middle of 2021, things could spring back faster than anticipated. Yet, that doesn’t give investors much confidence in the meantime. With revenues still down considerably, due to depressed business and leisure travel levels, it makes sense why some are skeptical the rebound in hotel stocks can continue.
Yet, that may be a short-sighted view. Yes, things are still tough for the hotel space. But, with institutional investors like PIMCO calling travel stocks the next wave of this rally, now may be the time to dive in.
Consider these five hotel stocks to buy ahead of a lodging industry comeback:
- Choice Hotels (NYSE:CHH)
- Hyatt Hotels (NYSE:H)
- Hilton Hotels (NYSE:HLT)
- Marriott International (NASDAQ:MAR)
- Wyndham Hotels & Resorts (NYSE:WH)
Sure, some of these names have already recovered most of their pandemic losses. But whether resilient or harder-hit, all five could produce strong returns as travel bounces back.
Hotel Stocks to Buy: Choice Hotels (CHH)
Unlike most of the stocks in this sector, CHH stock has recovered considerably well. Shares are just a few dollars below where they were before the pandemic. But, that’s no reason to think shares are topping out.
How so? The company, which franchises hotels under brands such as Comfort Inn, Clarion and Econo Lodge, faces fewer hurdles than its more high-end peers.
For example, as this commentator recently wrote, 90% of its hotels are in “drive-to leisure” markets. That is to say, its properties are mainly not in downtown areas, or in destinations you’d travel to by plane. With this segment of the industry less hard-hit, not only is there good reason why shares have seen less of an impact from the pandemic. The company may fully recover much sooner as well.
That is not to say things aren’t tough right now. For the recent quarter, revenue per available room dipped 49.6% due to the lockdowns affecting travel. Adjusted earnings fell 89% year-over-year. But, with the most severe declines likely in the rear-view mirror, budget lodging play CHH stock remains one of the strongest travel comeback plays out there.
Hyatt Hotels (H)
Major operator Hyatt may have missed on earnings. And, like most of the major lodging names, it didn’t release guidance.
Yet, despite the pandemic continuing to impact things in the near term, H stock may be a great long-term opportunity at today’s prices. Why? With shares still more than 35% below their pre-outbreak prices, there is plenty of room for the stock to run as the travel recovery accelerates.
Sure, as I said above, “back to normal” may not happen until mid-2021. And, the pivot to virtual meetings and conferences could impact business travel in the long term. That would be bad news for Hyatt, which has a focus on the full-service model.
But, this bearishness is more than reflected in shares. Buying now, while expectations for a recovery remain muted, could produce strong returns. And if the recovery takes longer than expected? With the aforementioned headwinds already factored in, shares will likely retain their current price level.
In short, H stock is a great risk/return proposition for investors looking for exposure to a travel rebound.
Hotel Stocks to Buy: Hilton Hotels (HLT)
Similar to the situation with Hyatt, HLT stock has partially recovered from its novel coronavirus losses. Shares have more than doubled off their lows, and currently trade for around $90 per share. But, with the stock trading for around $112 per share before the outbreak, there’s still some room for shares to run as the travel economy improves.
As InvestorPlace’s Divya Premkumar wrote back in July, pent-up demand from the lockdowns could mean an instant rebound in the travel industry. This bodes well for HLT stock, thanks to its massive global footprint. Yes, limited-service (budget) hotels may fare better in the new normal.
But, while most of Hilton’s brands — like DoubleTree, Embassy Suites and Hilton — are full-service, the company has exposure to the budget segment via its Garden Inn and Hampton brands.
With this in mind, it isn’t much of a hurdle for the hospitality giant to get “back to normal.” For exposure to the inevitable travel industry rebound, Hilton is one of the best hotel stocks to buy.
Marriott International (MAR)
Like its rival Hilton, Marriott shares are a great play on a lodging recovery. That is the view of analysts at Jefferies, who recently upgraded both stocks from “hold” to “buy.”
Their rationale? Namely, the strong business model of both operators. As hotel franchisors and managers, they don’t own the physical hotel properties. Instead, both generate management and licensing fees. This low-capital business model will make it easier for this company and its major rival to easily retrace prior levels of profitability.
I know what you’re thinking: How will this company generate licensing fees if the owners of its hotel real estate are losing their shirts? This is not as much of a problem as you’d think. As this commentator noted, even if some of its properties go into foreclosure, the franchise agreements will likely remain in place.
Simply put, hotels are worth more as franchises of major brands than as independent, standalone properties. And, with brands like Courtyard, Marriott, Residence Inn and Sheraton, the company’s portfolio gives it a degree of resiliency.
Sure, just like with Hilton, MAR stock has more than doubled off its novel coronavirus lows. But, with its shares still trading 27% below pre-pandemic prices, this is another play that could take off as the travel economy survives and thrives in the “new normal.”
Hotel Stocks to Buy: Wyndham Hotels and Resorts (WH)
Wyndham’s portfolio of hotel brands (like La Quinta, Ramada, Super 8) may not have same cache as Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott. But, this operator’s focus on the budget segment of the lodging space has its advantages.
And that is part of the reason why Truist analyst C. Patrick Scholes recently rated WH stock a “buy.”
Just like with Choice Hotels, this operator generates the lion’s share of its business (87%) from the “drive-to leisure” market. And with 70% of its business from leisure travelers, it’s experiencing less of an impact from the technological pivot affecting business travel.
Yes, WH stock has recovered significantly more than the higher-end hotel operators. But, as Scholes noted, shares still trade at a valuation discount to CHH stock.
With recovery fully in motion for budget operators like Wyndham, there’s ample opportunity here. Consider shares a buy, even as they trade within 10% of their pre-outbreak prices.
On the date of publication, Thomas Niel did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article.
Thomas Niel, contributor to InvestorPlace, has written single-stock analysis since 2016.