As an analyst who spends every day looking at numbers, I have a tendency to try and quantify everything. We humans, as a species, tend to do this all the time.
For the most part, it serves us well. But it can also sometimes be a trap, diminishing the value of what is simply unquantifiable.
During the planning phase, I contemplated every detail of the trip, from number of hours spent on flights... nights spent in hotels... how many sites I could see within a certain amount of time. Everything had to be just perfect.
But even during the early phases of the journey, I found myself counting...
There were four grueling days of hiking. At about 20.5 miles in total length, it took four days to complete. Each night, we camped at about 13,000 feet. And at the summit of our hike, we would reach 14,928 feet.
Strenuous hiking at such a high elevation for such an extended period of time meant that every breath, every step, was a laborious effort. But we pressed on, young and old, encouraged each other and offered a helping hand until we reached the end of our journey. And best of all, we knew that each painstaking step meant that we were just that closer to seeing one of the most truly remarkable sights in the world: the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu.
It was only during those little moments when I was able to move past this tendency to quantify everything that I truly lost myself in the mystery and wonder the world has to offer.
After all, how can you possibly quantify a view like this?
Hopefully, you've had the chance to have experiences like this at some point in your life, too. All too often, we in the developed world tend to take for granted the fact that most of us have the means to do these kinds of things. But there are hundreds of millions of people who don't -- but they soon will.
The World's Burgeoning Middle Class
Global demand for travel is surging. Hundreds of millions of people are entering the global middle class right now and in the years to come. One of the first things these people will look to do is travel.
By 2030, two-thirds of the global middle class will be residents of the Asia-Pacific region. That's up from just under one-third in 2009. And China alone is expected to have a staggering one billion members of the middle class by then.
China's budding middle class is already traveling in greater numbers than ever before. A United Nations tourism report showed that the number of Chinese citizens traveling overseas has surged from 10 million in 2000 to more than 83 million in 2013.
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This is a huge opportunity for the online travel business. Consumers in the Asia-Pacific region currently book only about 27% of their travels online, while Latin America lags even further at 21%. In China, only about 15% of consumers currently book their travel online. This is compared to rates over 50% in the United States and Europe.
It's not hard to imagine that the rest of the world will quickly catch up to the United States and Europe in terms of booking their travel online. And that sets up a tremendous opportunity.
That's where my colleague Jimmy Butts comes in with one of his most recent picks in his premium newsletter, Top Stock Advisor.
How To Profit From This Trend
In last month's issue of his newsletter, Jimmy reported on the incredible growth of the online travel market. Citing much of the information I referenced above, he went on to recommend two publicly-traded online travel companies.
I don't like to make a habit of giving away too many picks from our premium publications, since our subscribers pay good money for this information (to learn how to subscribe, go here). But I can reveal that one of them is Expedia (Nasdaq: EXPE), the world's largest online travel company.
Surging industry growth is reflected in Expedia's gross bookings. In 2015, the company booked a staggering $60 billion worth of flights, hotels, rental cars and cruises. It's on track to crush those figures in 2016, already racking up gross bookings of more than $56 billion through the first nine months of this year, which is 23% more compared with the first nine months of 2015.
Expedia has made major strides in the international market. In 2005, international revenue made up only 22% of its portfolio; last year that soared to approximately 45%. But that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of potential for growth. Despite being the largest player in online travel, the company still has only a 4% share of the global market.
This speaks to the highly-fragmented nature of the market, but also for the potential to grow through acquisitions, which Expedia has been doing for some time now already. Between the growth in the global middle class and growth in the online travel market, Jimmy thinks Expedia should benefit greatly over the next 5-10 years. As such, it's a good long-term holding to consider adding to your portfolio.
Jimmy's other pick, however, may have even more potential. I won't give away the name here (to get it, you'll have to subscribe to Top Stock Advisor.) But it has a hold on 50% of the online travel market in China -- which by all accounts should be the prime growth market in in the years ahead.
While the real value of travel may not be quantifiable, investors who back this company now could be counting sizeable gains within a few years. If you'd like to get the name and ticker symbol of this pick, as well as the rest of Jimmy's top picks for 2017 and beyond, simply visit this link.