5 Travel Stocks for the Holiday Season

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world's busiest airport, expects 1.7 million passengers to travel this holiday season, or a 3% increase in bookings, vs. the same period last year. Airports may see a daily average of 54,000 to 57,000 passengers during the holiday period starting Nov. 22 through Nov. 28, topping the daily average of 30,000 to 40,000 on regular days, based on data.

Thanksgiving holiday travel is less expensive than other travel holidays because of the advantage of travelling in large groups, according to AAA Auto Club South. Automobile travel during the period is expected to increase 4% this year from last year.

A rise in the travel statistics would drive hotel and resort bookings during the Thanksgiving-week travel. Online booking of hotels and tickets is expected to soar this year compared to last year.

Based on latest quarterly results and analysts' recommendations, these five stocks have potential upsides ranging from 16% to 43%. On average, 72% of analysts from a Bloomberg consensus have buy recommendations on these stocks.

The stocks are listed in ascending order of upside potential.

5. LaSalle Hotel ( LHO) is a real estate investment trust that focuses on upscale and luxury full-service hotels located in busy markets. The company owns interest in 36 hotels with over 8,900 guest rooms located in nine states and the District of Columbia. The Maryland-based REIT conducts its operations through its subsidiaries.

Of the 18 analysts covering the stock, 56% recommend a buy and the rest suggest a hold. The stock's 12-month average price target is $25.54, which is 15.9% higher than the current market price, as per a Bloomberg consensus.

For 2011 third quarter, the company announced total revenue of $199.1 million, up 20.8% from $164.7 million in the same quarter prior year. Net income attributable to common shareholders amounted to $14.9 million for the quarter, increasing 47.5% from $10.1 million last year. For the reporting quarter, revenue per available room increased 6.4% to $166.09. The company declared its quarterly dividend of 11 cents per common share of beneficial interest on Sept. 30. The dividend was paid on Oct. 14.

The company projects fourth-quarter revenue per available room growth of 5% to 7% and 6.2% to 6.6% for full year 2011.

Early October, LaSalle Hotel announced that it acquired the Villa Florence, a 182-room full-service urban hotel in San Francisco for $67.2 million.

4. Starwood Hotels & Resorts ( HOT) is a leading hotel and leisure company with 1,071 properties in 100 countries. The company operates hotels and vacation and residential spaces. The company's Starwood Vacation Ownership unit operates high-quality vacation resorts.

Of the 29 analysts covering the stock, 72% recommend a buy and the rest rate a hold. The stock's average 12-month price target is $59.48, about 24.8% higher than the current price, as per data compiled by Bloomberg.

Starwood Hotels declared revenue of $1.37 billion for 2011 third quarter, an increase of 9.3% from $1.25 billion in the same quarter prior year. For the first nine months, sales increased 9.7% to $4.09 billion. Income from continuing operations amounted to $165 million, vs. a loss of $5 million in the third quarter of 2010. Net income for the quarter was $163, compared to a year-on-year loss of $6 million.

The company announced it has boosted its annual dividend by 67% from the prior year and will pay 50 cents per share on Dec. 30 to shareholders of record Dec. 15. For the fourth quarter, HOT pegs income from continuing operations between $103 million and $111 million. For full year 2011, EPS before special items is expected in the $1.75 to $1.79 range.

Starwood hotels announced that its Sheraton brand is planning to open 10 new properties in China and Southeast Asia by the end 2012, as part of its $5 billion global expansion over the next three years. Additionally, it announced the debut of its new destination brand Aloft Hotels in the U.K. with the opening of Aloft London Excel.

3. Priceline ( PCLN) offers a range of travel-related services including the opportunity to purchase hotel room reservations, car rentals, airline tickets, vacation packages, cruises and destination services in a price-disclosed manner. The Priceline Group includes Booking.com, priceline.com, Agoda.com and Travel Jigsaw and several ancillary brands spread across 150 countries.

Of the 24 analysts covering the stock, 79% recommend buying and 17% suggest a hold. The stock's average 12-month price target is $620.55, nearly 29.9% higher than the current price, according to a Bloomberg consensus.

For the third quarter of 2011, the company reported total revenue of $1.45 billion, an increase of 45% from $1 billion in the same period last year. Net income doubled to $472 million from $222 million in the comparable quarter prior year.

For the fourth quarter, the company expects revenue growth of 27% to 32% year-over-year and net income of $4.23 to $4.33 per share. In October, the company entered into a $1 billion five-year unsecured revolving credit facility.

2. Alaska Air Group ( ALK) is the holding company for Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, both Seattle-based carriers that collectively serve over 90 destinations in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The company also provides freight and mail services, primarily to and within the state of Alaska and on the West Coast.

Of the 16 analysts covering the stock, 75% rate a buy and 19% suggest a hold. The stock's average 12-month price target is $85.64, about 35.8% higher than the current price, data from Bloomberg show.

For the third quarter of 2011, Alaska Air reported total operating income $1.19 billion, up 12.2% from $1.06 billion in the same period previous year. Net income stood at $77.5 million. Mainline passenger revenue improved 13.9% on a 6.0% growth in capacity and a 7.4% increase in passenger revenue per available seat mile compared to 2010.

The company reported operational results for October for both subsidiaries. Across combined operations, traffic increased 5.5%, while capacity grew 4.2%, vs. the same month last year. October traffic on Alaska Airlines rose to 1.79 billion revenue passenger miles. Capacity grew 5.1% to 2.17 billion available seat miles.

Alaska Airlines inaugurated its daily service from Honolulu to San Diego in October 2010, offering more than 130 flights per week from Hawaii.

1. Copa Holding ( CPA) is a leading Latin American provider of passenger and cargo services offering 280 daily scheduled flights among 54 destinations in 27 countries in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean from its Panama City hub.

Of the 17 analysts covering the stock, 76% rate a buy and 24% suggest a hold. The stock's average 12-month price target is $87.72, which is 43.1% higher than the current price, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

For the third quarter of 2011, CPA reported total revenue of $476 million, up 31% from $363 million in the same quarter last year. Net income stood at $70.3 million and earnings per share came in at $1.59. For the quarter, robust demand translated into passenger traffic growth of 21.6%. Copa Holdings reported consolidated on-time performance of 91.3% and flight-completion factor of 99.6%, maintaining its position among the best in the industry.

For Oct., Copa Holdings' passenger traffic increased 14.7%, while capacity grew 20.8%. International traffic jumped 21.4%, while capacity increased 27.3%.

The company expects full-year consolidated capacity to be 21% higher than full-year 2010 capacity, while 2012 capacity will increase by another 20%. The growth was made possible by the addition of 10 Boeing 737-800s this year and another 10 aircraft are expected to be added in the existing fleet in 2012.

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