Travel

Travel companies cheer Pfizer Covid vaccine news as 'welcomed step' toward return in demand

Key Points
  • CEOs from major cruise lines and hospitality operators cheered Pfizer's news about its vaccine efficacy.
  • "TripAdvisor has long believed travel will recover with vigor as soon as a vaccine was widely available. Today's Pfizer news is a welcomed step in the right direction," TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer told CNBC.
  • "This is a very positive development for the world, and, of course, our company and our brands," Carnival Cruise Line told CNBC.
Florida, Port of Miami, Row of cruise ships docked, non-essential business due to Coronavirus.
Jeff Greenberg | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, travel executives have been pinning their hopes on a Covid-19 vaccine saving their industry, which has suffered from the fallout of the health crisis.

Following news Monday of Pfizer's vaccine data showing more than 90% efficacy among participants without evidence of prior infection, CEOs from major cruise lines and hospitality operators cheered the breakthrough.

"TripAdvisor has long believed travel will recover with vigor as soon as a vaccine was widely available. Today's Pfizer news is a welcomed step in the right direction," Steve Kaufer, CEO of TripAdvisor, told CNBC in an email.

Shares of TripAdvisor jumped 21.67%.

Travel executives are hopeful that an effective vaccine will speed up the timeline around when travelers will feel comfortable getting back out and about again.

While questions remain around the supply and distribution of a vaccine, the data from Pfizer was enough to fuel travel-related stocks to the top of the S&P 500.

"This is a very positive development for the world, and, of course, our company and our brands, as well as the cruise industry. It is too early at this point to determine the impact this may have on the conditional sail order in the U.S., if any," Carnival wrote in an email to CNBC.

Its shares soared almost 40% on Monday in Carnival's best day ever as a public company. It went public in 1987.

Richard Fain, CEO of Royal Caribbean, has often called a vaccine the "ultimate weapon" for tackling Covid-19. Royal Caribbean rocketed up almost 29% for its best day since March.

In the meantime, the cruise operators are working around the clock, setting up testing facilities for all crew and conducting simulated voyages with their new Covid protocols. Once the CDC deems the safety protocols adequate, it will provide the green light. Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have suspended U.S. sailing for the remainder of 2020.

Norwegian Cruise Line reports quarterly earnings after the bell on Monday, where shareholders will want to know whether a January 2021 start date is feasible.

Analysts also are wondering whether a new administration under the leadership of President-elect Joe Biden will result in different protocols for the cruise industry. The industry has received support from Vice President Mike Pence, who reportedly overruled the CDC's decision to extend its cruise ban until February 2021. The CDC lifted its no-sail order at the end of October and issued a framework for a Conditional Sailing Order.

Truist Securities Managing Director Patrick Scholes said he believes a Biden administration "will be more likely to follow the recommendations of the CDC when it comes to health matters." 

Hotel operators also joined in on the market rally Monday, with Marriott on pace for its best day since March.

Online travel giant Expedia is up 20%, on pace for its largest percentage increase since 2012. It closed higher by 24.6% at a new 52-week high.

Investors are hopeful that access to a vaccine will lift confidence in travelers and result in a spike in bookings next year. Prior to the Pfizer vaccine news, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson on the company's earnings call last Friday said, "We'll start to see meaningfully more bookings when those vaccines start to take effect."

Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel said on CNBC's "Closing Bell" that he was optimistic about the implications of Pfizer and German partner BioNTech's positive results. However, he cautioned that the travel industry still has a "long, long road ahead" before it returns to pre-pandemic levels.

"There's a lot of uncertainty out there, and I'm not going to change what we said last week. It's going to take time," Fogel said. "We think it's going to be years, not quarters, before we recover" to 2019 levels.

Shares of Booking Holdings, which owns brands such as Booking.com and Priceline.com, closed up more than 18% on Monday.

CNBC's Kevin Stankiewicz contributed to this report.

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