As Airbnb Enters the Fray, Hotels Are the New Airlines

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NEW YORK (TheStreet) - " Men as smart as myself have got their asses handed to them on a sling with the airlines." -- Gordon Gekko , Wall Street

Gekko, the iconic character played by Academy Award winner-Michael Douglas in the 1987 classic Wall Street, remarked airlines have historically been a terrible investment .

Just about every major carrier in the U.S. has gone through some form of bankruptcy since the 1990s. They may be on the mend though, as a merger between American and U.S. Airways created the world's largest airline, supplanting Delta and UnitedContinental , who've both also undergone large consolidations in recent years. Many expect airlines will finally regain pricing power.

If airlines are on a steady mend, it might be time for investors to begin worrying about the lodging industry, especially as home sharing website Airbnb and its publicly traded competitor HomeAway seek to disrupt consumers' travel habits.

HomeAway currently carries a near $4 billion market capitalization on the Nasdaq. Airbnb is reportedly in the process of a fundraising $400 million-to-$500 million fundraising round that will value the home sharing network at approximately $10 billion, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal

Yet, as Airbnb continues to raise money ahead a long-speculated initial public offering, something simply doesn't add up in the industry. Industry wide tourism spending data in the U.S. indicates that if airlines are on the verge of a renaissance, hotels may be on the cusp of a dark age.

Data gleaned from GDP reports indicates that in 2013, the pricing of air travel was inversely correlated with the pricing of hotels. For the lodging industry, that's worrisome given a significant increase in overall hotels and rooms in the U.S. in 2013, and a strong backlog of in-construction rooms -- especially among a new breed of publicly traded hotel chains like Hilton , Extended Stay and, eventually, La Quinta .

In the fourth quarter, GDP data shows that prices for 'traveler accommodations' fell 8%, after falling in the third quarter. In contrast, prices for 'passenger air transport' rose 7.9% in the fourth quarter, an acceleration from the 5.7% price increase reported in the third quarter. When air transport prices slumped in the second quarter, lodging prices surged. There seems a clear correlation, judging from 2013 data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics .

Underlying that pricing data is a strongly recovering economic climate for the travel industry, whether it be airlines, hotels, or restaurants. Real spending on travel and tourism accelerated at an annual rate of 4.2% in the fourth quarter, after rising 3.1% in the third quarter. Those figures are roughly double overall GDP growth and hint at where all the discretionary dollars that are missing from retail earnings are being spent.