Airbnb is on track to become the biggest travel western travel platform over the next five years, making this a good entry point for investors, according to Bernstein. Richard Clarke initiated Airbnb as outperform with a price target of $143, indicating an upside of about 30% from Tuesday’s close of $110.81. The stock traded slightly lower in the premarket. He sees the vacation rental industry valued at about $150 billion, noting the space could see high single- to low-digit growth going forward. He also said that Airbnb is well-positioned to grow in other markets including hotels, experiences and long-term stays. “Airbnb a unique business within travel, with a triple moat from an aspirational brand, a unique product set and a loyal customer base – all focused in one of travel’s fastest swim lanes,” Clarke said in a Tuesday note to clients. Clarke said Airbnb should be the biggest western travel platform by 2027, while the consensus is for the company to reach this feat by 2029. It should also be the most profitable online travel agency within two years, beating out competitors such as Expedia and Booking.com. Bernstein sees a record-setting third quarter that is 5% ahead of estimates on room nights surpassing 100 million. Airbnb has been able to grow while cutting marketing costs, which points to the strength of the brand, he said. To be sure, there are concerns about supply and meeting demand, as the company breaks in to new markets. There’s also been talk about Airbnbs being “hotels with chores” and complaints about additional fees, Clarke said. The looming threat of greater regulation remains, though Clarke said those concerns have diminished and the platform has shown its ability to preform regardless. And Airbnbs, despite being considered a “good value,” are still more expensive than hotels, which are currently still depressed from the pandemic. But “any modest backlash against Airbnb is also not stifling demand,” Clarke said. And now is a good time to buy given its “attractive” entry point. “Even if you have a negative outlook on travel demand, we would see Airbnb as the best stock to own given its more defensive position, faster growth and more attractive valuation on a 4-year forward multiple,” he added. Airbnb shares have struggled this year, losing 33%. — CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.
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