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Travel and Leisure Investors Say Now Is the Time to Profit

Tuesday, 5 Mar 2013 | 10:16 AM ET
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average may have made up its losses from the financial crisis, but some investors in travel and leisure believe that only now will they really profit from its aftermath.

Big lodging stocks like Starwood and Marriot, which manage hotels for independent owners, tracked the Dow through its dive and climb back. But the game changer is the legacy of so few new hotels being built after 2007. Demand for rooms is back and the lack of new supply means existing hotels should be able to charge full price each night for a room for possibly four years, making Starwood and Marriott's service contracts more lucrative.

(Read More: Global Online Travel Market 'Huge, Growing, and Not Saturated': Analyst)

Over the past five years, hotel owners have been scarred by the deep discounting of rooms during the financial crisis, falls in the value of their properties, and the fact some make were simply borrowing too much when the downturn hit.

(Read More: Got Status? Delta, Starwood to Offer Reciprocal Elite Benefits)

With its current market cap of $12 billion, even behemoth Host Hotels & Resorts has lost one quarter of its previous value. Wells Fargo predicted however that dividend-paying hotel REITS could return up to 10 percent this year — unless rising interest rates trigger a sell-off.

(Read More: Airlines Add Luxe to Woo Deep-Pocketed Fliers; Duvet, Anyone?)

Without question the T&L legacy stemming from the crisis is that it made lasting investment stars among the online travel agencies (OTAs). At the height of the downturn they became the only means by which hotels could dump their massive unsold inventory.

The public liked their discounts and their technology, sticking with them to this day and leaving hotels fighting to escape their ability to generate demand —even if OTAs can take 15 to 25 percent of the price of the room their sell in commission. With a gain of more than 600 percent Priceline is the standout performer with its international expansion in Europe and Asia. Recently Expedia doubled in value, although Orbitz has lost its way with a loss of over 60 percent.

(Read More: Best Buy Like Titanic, Says Retail Analyst)

-By CNBC's Simon Hobbs.

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