Disruptor Alert: These 3 Companies Are Changing the Travel Industry

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All work and no play isn't just a recipe for disaster if you're maintaining Stanley Kubrick's Overlook Hotel during the off-season. Everyone needs some time to disconnect, and there's no shortage of companies that will make that happen.

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For investors in the travel and leisure industries, the key is to focus on companies that are doing things a little bit differently than the competition, giving them an edge as they stand out as disruptors. Let's go over a few of the travel companies that are shaking things up -- in a good way.

Carnival Corporation (NYSE: CCL) and Carnival PLC  (NYSE: CUK) 

The world's largest cruise ship operator is doing pretty well these days. The stock is trading 34% higher in 2017, as gross revenue yields, adjusted profitability, and advance bookings continue to inch higher.

Carnival is disrupting its market by introducing high tech to the high seas. Passengers are receiving Ocean wearable medallions that use chips and Bluetooth connectivity that allow folks to do things like order poolside beverages, find their family and friends, and customize cabin settings when heading back to their berths.

The Cruise Line Industry Association estimates that 25.8 million people will take a cruise this year, a big number but clearly a small chunk of the population. Another survey last year showed that two-thirds of Americans have never been on a cruise, and as the low-price leader, Carnival should continue to benefit as the popular choice for first-time travelers. Now armed with wearable tech that makes the experience more interactive and convenient for passengers, Carnival should also benefit financially as it is at the forefront of a sea change of sorts.

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Disney (NYSE: DIS)

The world's largest theme park operator invested a reported $1 billion in the MyMagic+ platform that powers Disney World's wearable tech revolution. Guests donning MagicBand bracelets can access expedited FastPass queues that they can reserve ahead of time on Disney's mobile app. The same bracelets can be used to unlock resort hotel rooms, pay for meals, and inevitably do so much more in the future.

The competition dismissed Disney's big-ticket outlay, but it's clear that they are envious. As Disney raises the bar with mobile ordering this year, its biggest rival in Florida and California is beginning to test out virtual queues on newer attractions.

Disney is just getting started. It's going through a dramatic makeover at Disney World with new lands, immersive restaurants, new ways to get around, and even a Star Wars-themed hotel where every incoming guest will be part of a larger story line.

Trivago (NASDAQ: TRVG)

Online travel has been disrupting traditional agencies since the 1990s, but you can still teach new dogs newer tricks. The recently public Trivago is growing faster than the more recognized household names, and it's doing so by sticking to one niche, diving deep, and giving everyone in the lodging industry a chance to get heard.

Trivago scours more than 200 booking sites to offer the best rates on more than 1.3 million properties. Small players often get left out of more conventional booking engines, but Trivago lets independent property owners advertise alongside major online travel agencies and hotel giants using cost-per-click advertising to drive customized traffic. 

Trivago's model is working. Revenue soared 67% in its latest quarter, fueled by a 59% surge in qualified referrals and a modest increase in the revenue it generates per qualified referral. Growth will decelerate from here, but Trivago is still eyeing 50% top-line growth for all of 2017. 

 

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Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Carnival and Trivago. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.