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Which travel stocks to consider post pandemic based on web search trends

Pandemic weary Americans are searching for places to escape to on vacation as more people get vaccinated against COVID-19.

"Yellowstone has exploded in a way that it really hadn't before and you can kind of see that in the top trending destinations," SimilarWeb's Alisha Kapur told Yahoo Finance Live. Kapur is the lead travel industry consultant at SimilarWeb, an analytics firm that tracks millions of clicks across the web, on a daily basis, to determine potential investment trends for paying clients. "People really are looking for safe, outdoor open spaces and Yellowstone and other national parks offer that so you can see from consumer search trends that national parks are kind of top of mind for most consumers, especially as they look for safe, comfortable, remote ways to get around."

SimilarWeb is telling their clients that the top five trending getaway searches include Yellowstone National Park, Disney World, Disneyland, Universal Studios Florida and the Grand Canyon.

Among search winners in the post pandemic travel reopening trade, Airbnb (ABNB), which logged 49 million searches in January. That was 15 million more than runner up VRBO which clicked in at 34 million. The only traditional accommodation "supplier" in SimilarWeb's data to make the top five searches was Marriott (MAR) at 17 million.

"I do believe that alternative accommodations will kind of maintain that strong pickup that they've had over the next few months," Kapur said. But she adds traditional hotel chains like Hilton (HLT) and Hyatt (H) are "doing a lot to regain consumers trust, they are offering a lot of deals, they are really, really kind of trying to put out calls to action to their loyal consumer base."

Getting there is half the fun

Passenger traffic through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints at the nation's airports continues to improve, according to Raymond James airline analyst Savanthi Syth. She recently told her clients, "Thursday, Feb. 25, passenger throughput crossed 1 million, which has only previously been seen on weekends or holiday periods since the pandemic began."

Syth said domestic demand started picking up two weeks ago writing, "Delta has seen a significant step up in travel demand, related to both near term and summer bookings (i.e., booking curve has started to elongate). This is similar to commentary by Southwest, as well as our recent weekly checks indicating domestic demand improving even outside of peak holiday/weekend travel."

"Southwest airlines remains America's sweetheart and has outperformed peers because of its focus on domestic" routes which the airlines call visiting friends and relatives, SimilarWeb said.

SouthWest (LUV) had 62% more web visits, according to SimilarWeb, than American (AAL) Delta (DAL) and United (UAL). Kapur said, "Southwest will continue to be the most successful airline in the short term, until more international destinations reopen to Americans."

Lamar Villere a partner and portfolio manager at Villere and Co. said consumer behavior is coming back faster than expected especially at companies with exposure to consumer discretionary spending.

"Maybe they are booking a few months out some are booking sooner, some are booking later but people are booking things. People are getting out of the house and looking for ways to spend their money right now," Villere said.

Post pandemic cruising still docked

Among the big cruise lines SimilarWeb said Carnival (CCL) had 4 million searches in January which was twice as many as its competitors Royal Caribbean (RCL), and Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCLH) which had 2 million each. But SimilarWeb is telling clients overall cruise search traffic remains depressed.

"We are still seeing continued traffic to information pages, cancellation pages, and really pages where consumers are not necessarily booking on site," Kapur said. Carnival recently pushed its suspension of operations through May 31 with other cruise lines doing the same. Kapur predicts continued volatility in the cruise sector for the next few months with a possible pickup this summer.

Adam Shapiro is co-anchor of Yahoo Finance Live 3pm to 5pm. Follow him on Twitter @Ajshaps

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