One theme pervading the market over the past 12 months or more is tourism. With the absence of the mining boom and Australia looking for alternative ways to keep growth and employment high – not to mention the influx of Chinese visitors – tourism stocks are becoming a hot option.

Unfortunately, not all of them look to be a buy at today’s prices:

Qantas Airways Limited (ASX: QAN) – last traded at $4.12, up 36% in the past 12 months

Qantas Airways is an interesting case. Shares caught the eye of investors over the past 18 months or so, more than tripling in that time. After years of underperformance, the company’s ‘Qantas Transformation’ program resulted in significant improvements, with Return On Invested Capital (ROIC) – a key measure of the value the company generates with its investments – exceeding its Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC) over the past 12 months.

One item that should concern investors is the company’s fuel expense on the statement of comprehensive income – this was $400 million lower than in the prior comparative period. When Qantas’ most recent profit only rose $472 million on the prior period, it shows the company’s exposure to fuel prices as a key risk. I wouldn’t buy Qantas shares at today’s prices, even though it’s difficult to predict where they’re headed next.

Star Entertainment Group Ltd (ASX: SGR) – last traded at $5.65, up 28% in the past 12 months

Revenues decline 3.2%, profit falls 37.9%, shares rise 28%….what the? Stripping out significant items, normalised Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation (EBITDA) rose 18.6% at casino operator Star. A substantially lower than average win rate also contributed to reduced profits. It seems investors are buying into the normalised numbers and the company’s ongoing expansion, although I note that a number of brokers have reduced their price targets recently.

With a weak result in the crucial VIP gambling segment and the recent strong run up in share prices, I would call Star a ‘Hold’ at the moment. I don’t see shares rising substantially in the near term without further good news.

Sealink Travel Group Ltd (ASX: SLK) – last traded at $4.29, up 75% in the past 12 months

The strong performance of Sealink over the past 12 months lead to its inclusion in the S&P/ASX 300 (INDEXASX: ^AXKO) (ASX: XKO) index recently, where it’s likely to draw the attention of a greater number of investors. A number of acquisitions have been the key to Sealink’s rapidly growing profits, although many of its services are also reporting modest organic growth. There looks to be significant potential in the company’s tourism operations, and Sealink has been proactive in starting new ferry routes.

However, with only 100 million shares on issue, investors should be cautious of future acquisitions being funded by capital raisings as this could impact on earnings per share. I believe there’s a fair chance Sealink shares will head higher in the near term as recent acquisitions start to contribute to profit.

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Motley Fool contributor Sean O'Neill has no position in any stocks mentioned. Unless otherwise noted, the author does not have a position in any stocks mentioned by the author in the comments below. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.