Stock Market

Writing about travel stocks may seem odd at a time when inflation is on the rise in lockstep with rising oil prices. However, information from the United States Travel Association may make you reconsider.  

In July 2023, total travel spending came in slightly above (1.2%) 2022 levels for the third consecutive month and is up 4.1% in 2023. Despite rising fuel costs, air travel demand was up 12% in July from the same month in 2022.  

Here’s something else to consider. A total of 53% of all Americans including 81% of leisure travelers have travel planned in the next six months. Interestingly, business travel still appears to be constricted. However, the line between business and leisure continues to blur which may mean the travel industry will be less affected than previously thought.  

That seems to be the case with many travel stocks that still offer good value for risk-tolerant investors. As we head into the last quarter of the year, here are three travel stocks that stand out based on earnings growth and travel habits.  

United Airlines (UAL) 

Source: travelview / Shutterstock.com

Several airlines have revised their projected earnings downward in September. That hasn’t been the case with United Airlines (NASDAQ:UAL). That’s not to say the airline won’t be impacted by rising fuel prices. However, for now, it appears that United, which is the world’s fourth-largest carrier, has an opportunity to pick up market share.  

One reason is that United has more than 120 international destinations. That’s one of the largest in the industry. Demand for international travel continues to be strong.  

Like all airlines, United is dealing with a pilot shortage as well as a dearth of air traffic controllers. United continues to increase the size of its fleet, which is putting downward pressure on prices. However, by many traditional metrics, UAL stock is undervalued. For example, the stock trades at a forward P/E ratio of just 3.9 times.  

Analysts seem to agree. UAL stock has an average price target of $71.19. That’s 65% higher than its price as of the market close on September 22, 2023. 

Travel + Leisure (TNL) 

Source: Olena Yakobchuk / Shutterstock

Travel + Leisure (NYSE:TNL) first got on my radar among travel stocks earlier this year. At a time when earnings are expected to take a hit, TNL’s forecast for 15% earnings growth stands out. That’s still the case. Revenue and earnings are showing single-digit growth in 2023. However, that’s not reflected in the TNL stock price which is up 0.44% in 2023. 

In addition to its namesake magazine, Travel + Leisure develops, sells and manages timeshare properties across a portfolio of more than 20 brands. The company caters to an affluent consumer who is looking for unique experiences. As the line between work and leisure blurs, the concept of a timeshare may become more popular.  

Analysts have a consensus price target of $51.88 for TNL stock. That’s a 41% increase from the company’s current price. Furthermore, Travel + Leisure pays an appealing dividend that currently has a 4.92% yield that pays out $1.80 annually on a per-share basis.  

American Express (AMEX) 

Source: First Class Photography / Shutterstock.com

At a time when credit card issuers are under pressure, the American Express Company (NYSE:AXP) stands out for several reasons. First, the company is less reliant on late fees as part of its revenue stream. This is significant at a time when regulators are seeking to protect consumers by lowering the dollar amount that card issuers can charge for large fees from between $31 and $40 to as low as $8. 

American Express does allow consumers to carry balances. That wasn’t always the case. However, the company is still known for its focus on higher-income consumers. It’s also a preferred card among business owners. That’s one reason that Warren Buffett likes the stock and has had AXP stock in its hedge fund’s portfolio since the 1970s.  

Analysts are bullish on AXP stock with a consensus price target of $183.24 which is 19.7% higher than the current price. And while the company’s dividend has a modest yield of 1.57% it has a reliable payout ratio of more than 24%.  

On the date of publication, Chris Markoch 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. 

Chris Markoch is a freelance financial copywriter who has been covering the market for over five years. He has been writing for InvestorPlace since 2019.

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