Why are so many traders betting on this hotel giant?

Traders check in to Hilton shares

All of the sudden, shares of Hilton have gotten awfully hot among options traders.

"We went from having a 10-day average daily volume of call options of roughly 1,000 contracts to trading 50,000 calls over the last five days," said Stacey Gilbert, head of derivative strategy with Susquehanna.

"When you're looking at anywhere from the July to the October timeframe, we're seeing buyers, and we're seeing people position for the stock to go north of $30," she added.

Given that Hilton shares closed at $28 on Friday, that represents at least 7 percent worth of upside from current levels.

Interestingly, no one critical event is ahead for the company. Although the options trades were bullish, Hilton shares actually fell by 2 percent last week.

Jim Strugger, derivatives strategist at MKM Partners, told CNBC in an email that there are a "lot of possible catalysts ahead," including that the company is "expected to announce dividends with its next earnings, a potential spin of lodging assets into a REIT structure, and a spin of its timeshare business."

Hot money, or long-term value?

Guests stand outside of a Hilton hotel in San Francisco, Feb. 16, 2015.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

But one bullish analyst says options traders may be seeing long-term value rather than playing for quick gains on a single event.

"I think what's going on here is, we've come to a pretty rough patch in the hotel stocks, particularly on the REITs" and lodging operators, said Robert LaFleur of JMP Securities, who considers Hilton to be his top pick.

"I think some of the smart money is starting to look through some of these discarded names for opportunity, and Hilton is a great lodging name right now," he added.

LaFleur says Hilton will soon get its balance sheet in order, which will allow the company to shift its focus from deleveraging to returning capital to shareholders.

"Investors really like this return-of-capital strategy … and reward those companies with higher multiples. We think Hilton is on the cusp of transitioning to that kind of story," he said Friday in a CNBC "Trading Nation" interview.

In addition, LaFleur believes the negative case on the recently sliding stock —and on the lodging space in general—has been overstated.

"We think the lodging industry is in great shape right now. Some of those things people were worried about, like tourists not showing up in New York—I'm in New York, I walk the streets of New York, and believe me, there are plenty of tourists here," LaFleur said. "So that doesn't seem to be playing out as some of the bears suspected," he added.

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