Airbnb (NYSE:ABNB) was one of the hottest tech unicorns out there for many years. However, it had the misfortune of trying to launch its initial public offering (IPO) in the era of Covid-19. Airbnb eventually made its IPO happen in December 2020, but amid all the travel uncertainty, ABNB stock has had an underwhelming run so far.
Yes, shares did pop in the spring as vaccine and reopening excitement picked up.
However, ABNB stock has been in a tailspin since then, and given the rough earnings season for many tech companies, it’s understandable why folks were nervous ahead of the company’s earnings report Thursday.
Shares have seen mixed trading since the earnings release came out. However, ABNB stock owners should take cheer both from its earnings and those of its direct peers.
While Airbnb’s business model is unique, there are some reasonable comps to work with. For example, consider Booking Holdings (NASDAQ:BKNG). Booking shares rallied 6% following strong Q2 results.
Booking reported only a small operating loss for the quarter, which is a big improvement as it had been running tons of red ink previously.
The company’s hotel room reservations surged 59% for the second quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter, which led the recovery for Booking. This is even more impressive than it sounds, since usually the second quarter is slightly weaker than the first one for Booking, according to CEO Glenn Fogel.
Furthermore, 59% is a huge jump sequentially, and points to how quickly normal leisure travel demand is returning. Fogel pointed to a particular rebound in travel in Europe. We see that with Airbnb as well. Airbnb reported that its cross-border European bookings have now surpassed 2019 levels.
Meanwhile, Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE) announced a more mixed set of results. Shares traded up sharply prior to its earnings report but then dropped back following the results.
A closer look at the company’s numbers, however, showed that lodging was strong with vacation bookings, in particular, being a high point. To the extent that Expedia underwhelmed, it was in part due to corporate travel failing to recover quickly.
However, Airbnb is not so heavily levered to corporate travel and indeed ended up seeing the same tailwinds as Expedia did in the leisure business.
Return To Growth Mode?
Airbnb reported a well-above-expectations Q2, and management said that it is expecting its biggest numbers ever in Q3, even topping pre-pandemic levels. So with the core business back on track, what else is moving the needle for Airbnb?
One key thing will be in Airbnb’s investments in experiences and other ancillary ventures.
In 2019, Airbnb started to move heavily into the experiences space, where travelers could buy things such as kayak trips, coffee plantation tours, cooking lessons and much more from local guides. In theory, this would allow Airbnb to earn higher margins and diversify its product away from just the competitive lodging space.
Alas, the pandemic put most of these plans on ice. Though, the company did keep experiences going to a certain degree through virtual events. Now, however, Airbnb should be able to start really pushing this potentially large revenue channel once again.
Airbnb also had other businesses in the works, such as building out local transportation offerings. This was also sidelined during the pandemic, but the company could look to get this moving again in the near term.
Meanwhile, there was at least one major benefit from the pandemic. CFO Dave Stephenson commented that the pandemic was a “reset” moment for a lot of local cities and states as far as regulation goes.
Cities like Barcelona had previously been looking to ban or heavily regulate Airbnb. In the new post-Covid world, however, the regulatory environment has become more favorable to Airbnb as cities want their tourist sectors to get moving again by any means necessary.
ABNB Stock Verdict
Airbnb delivered a strong result this quarter. Regardless of that, shares haven’t moved much, at least not yet. This gives investors a chance to take a position in ABNB stock ahead of what management forecasts will be a blockbuster third quarter.
It’s not just Airbnb either. Looking at other travel companies, it seems clear that the leisure and vacation business is rapidly stabilizing.
Despite all the uncertainty of the Delta and other variants, things are returning to normal. That, in turn, should give Airbnb a solid trajectory in the coming months.
On the date of publication, Ian Bezek 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.
Ian Bezek has written more than 1,000 articles for InvestorPlace.com and Seeking Alpha. He also worked as a Junior Analyst for Kerrisdale Capital, a $300 million New York City-based hedge fund. You can reach him on Twitter at @irbezek.