After Marriott International (MAR - Get Report) this week agreed to buy Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide (HOT) for $12.2 billion, analysts quickly settled into comfortable "group think" and assumed that the combined entity would eventually crush the competition in an industry where consolidation seems to be the only way to survive.
After all, the combination would create the No. 1 hotel company in the world, with more than 1 million rooms spread across about 30 different brand names in lodging. A strong dollar, combined with competition from room-sharing upstart Airbnb has made these megadeals in the hotel sector more attractive to investors.
But before you get too excited about Marriott International, consider a better growth-and-income hotel stock with superb prospects that the investment herd is overlooking: Wyndham Worldwide (WYN) .
The global economic recovery, a more confident consumer and falling joblessness is fueling greater tourism spending, setting the stage for a prosperous holiday season and 2016 for the hospitality industry.
Before the marriage of Marriott/Starwood becomes official, Wyndham now stands as the world's largest and most diversified hotel operator, with roughly 7,500 hotels around the globe. The company already enjoys the economies of scale that Marriott and Starwood are trying to foster, but its stock is a better value than Marriott, and it also pays a better dividend.
Wyndham Worldwide offers a broad range of hospitality services and products to individual and business customers in the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere. The parent company's famous brand names should resonate with any vacationing family or corporate road warrior: Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Ramada, Days Inn, Super 8, Travelodge, Knights Inn, Howard Johnson, Wingate, Hawthorn, and Microtel.
The company's broad range of offerings in lodging, ranging from the low end all the way to high-priced luxury, helps reduce its reliance on any single consumer sector. The company's hotels have something to offer for budget and upscale travelers and everyone in between. Moreover, the company's portfolio of famous brands has created entrenched customer loyalty and name recognition.
Low energy prices, rising home prices and falling joblessness are generating a "wealth affect" among consumers, sparking a rise in tourism and corporate travel. Simultaneously, the aviation sector is in the midst of a global renaissance, after years in the doldrums following the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Enormous pent-up demand for travel is now coming to the fore, especially in emerging markets where a rising middle class is demanding the good life as seen in the West -- and that includes tourism.
Airlines are reporting record demand for passenger tickets, which are getting cheaper because of the collapse in fuel prices that boost the margins of air carriers.
Wyndham is the best play now on these trends. The company reported third-quarter diluted earnings per share of $1.78, for a year-over-year increase of 7%. Revenue for the third quarter increased 3% year over year and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization increased 7%.
For all of 2015, management provided revenue guidance of $5.45 billion-$5.55 billion and adjusted EPS of $5.06-$5.09. For all of 2016 management expects organic adjusted EBITDA growth to hit its long-term target range of 6%-8%.
And yet, Wyndham's trailing 12-month price-to-earnings ratio stands at 16.9, compared with 24.1 for Marriott.
What's more, Wyndham's stock offers a dividend yield of 2.16%, compared with a dividend of 1.37% for Marriott. And investors should expect Marriott to get weighed down in coming quarters as it struggles to absorb and "right size" its massive acquisition, especially Starwood's struggling Sheraton brand.
So, if you're looking for a pure play on the global rise in tourism, look beyond the headlines and book Wyndham.
Wyndham isn't the only growth stock trading at an enticing valuation. In today's overvalued market, a select group of stocks still offer outsized growth at a bargain. For a full report on the sort of "value plays" that Warren Buffett would love, click here.