Most consumers are familiar with the travel and tourism industry from using its services for some needed rest and relaxation during family and related vacations. However, these same activities can be invested in, with many publicly-traded firms offering travel activities for the end benefit of growing the capital of their underlying shareholders. Listed below are five areas of the travel and tourism market that could prove lucrative from an investing standpoint. It could also help committed travelers better understand the landscape and hunt down some travel deals.

See: Best Places And Sites For Online Travel Deals

Online Travel Providers
As with many industries, revenue continues to shift to the internet when it comes to providing travel and tourism services. Stock brokers have been replaced in large part with online trading platforms, while traditional travel agents have had to compete with online websites that allow consumers to shop for low prices and convenient schedules.

Leading online travel providers include publicly-traded players such as Orbitz, Priceline and Expedia. In particular, Priceline has been highly successful in driving traffic to its website to book flights and bid for cheap, last minute travel deals. Over the past five years, it has seen sales and profits grow around 20% annually. This growth has fully shown through in its stock price, which is up around 1,000% in the past five years.

Cruising
The cruise line industry has been in existence for more than a century, but still is not that widespread as a travel choice for many consumers. Carnival, the largest cruise line operator in the world, has estimated that only 3.4% of the population in North America has ever been on a cruise. The percentages are even lower in the rest of the world.

Capacity is also growing nicely; Carnival estimates the entire industry has seen average annual capacity growth of roughly 5.6 to 6.9% over the past five years.

Hotels
The hotel industry is dominated by a couple of leading international players. This includes publicly-traded firms Marriott and Starwood Hotels, as well as privately owned Hilton. These companies have largely blanketed their home United States market and are now growing internationally. In Starwood's case, 84% of its new hotel pipeline was international. These chains have also pursued the managing of properties for hotel owners, as well as timeshares where they sell the rights for consumers to use their properties for a week, or more, during each calendar year. (For additional reading, see Timeshares: Dream Vacation Or Money Pit?)

Maga-resorts
Large resort operators combine the development of hotels with other entertainment and related amenities. Publicly-traded operators in this space include Gaylord Entertainment, which owns the Opryland resort in Nashville and other properties in Texas, Florida and Maryland. It specializes in massive resorts that allow big travel groups to host conventions and other giant gatherings.

Vail Resorts owns some of the best-known ski resorts in Colorado and surrounding areas. This includes Vail Mountain, Breckenridge and Beaver Creek Resort. Of course, Walt Disney specializes in kid-friendly theme parks, hotels and entertainment complexes, such as Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California.

Casinos
Las Vegas-style gambling is growing rapidly across Asia. Macao has grown into the largest gambling market in the world and has seen the building of massive casino resorts from Las Vegas-based firms such as Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands. Both are publicly traded companies. This growth is expanding to other parts of Asia, including Singapore, and potentially Vietnam and Japan.

The Bottom Line
These are just some of the many opportunities to invest in the travel and tourism industries across the world. Overseas growth, especially in emerging market economies, should continue to outpace that in more developed markets in North America and Europe. However, as with the online travel space, there will always be pockets that are picking up market share in every part of the world. (To learn more, read An Evaluation Of Emerging Markets.)

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