5 best ASX 200 travel shares of 2021

Who would want to own a travel business during a pandemic? Many investors are pretty happy with the performance of these 5 businesses.

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Perhaps no sector on the ASX has been hit harder by COVID-19 than travel shares.

And 2021 proved to be in many ways more devastating than 2020 for ASX shares in that industry.

That’s because fortunes in the past 12 months have swung wildly through pandemic-related twists and turns.

First, the travel sector started 2021 with high hopes — coronavirus vaccines were to be rolled out globally and a new US president would guide the world to stability.

Then mid-year, the Delta variant crushed the world’s optimism, forcing many trip cancellations and triggering anti-travel lockdowns.

By November, most states seemed to accept that reopening must happen and the phrase “living with COVID” came into vogue.

Then the world became paralysed with fear in the final 5 weeks of the year as a new variant of the virus, dubbed Omicron, spread like a bushfire.

Phew, that’s a decade’s worth of drama in one calendar year.

The star performers of 2021

So it’s no wonder that the market saw a wide variety of returns from travel shares in 2021.

Here are the 5 that performed the best:

Company2021 change
Apollo Tourism & Leisure Ltd (ASX: ATL)98.41%
Sydney Airport (ASX: SYD)35.41%
Corporate Travel Management Ltd (ASX: CTD)25.77%
Flight Centre Travel Group Ltd (ASX: FLT)11.17%
Kelsian Group Ltd (ASX: KLS)10.31%

Recreational vehicle provider Apollo has put massive smiles on the faces of its investors, with its shares doubling in 2021.

Credit must go to the team at Forager, who was spruiking the stock as a buy from early in the year.

Forager Funds chief investment officer Steve Johnson said back in August that the market did not properly appreciate Apollo’s pandemic-recovery tailwinds.

“Mr Market is anticipating a recovery, but he’s underestimating the amount of structural change [Apollo has] made.”

In a quiet year for plane rides, Sydney Airport shares raked in more than 35% over 2021.

The stock did most of its heavy lifting over just a couple of days in July, when a takeover bid was revealed to the public.

The consortium that wanted to acquire the infrastructure eventually came back with a higher offer, which meant Sydney Airport shares steadily climbed the past 5 months.

The $23.6 billion deal still needs approval from Sydney Airport shareholders in February. But regulatory authorities have given their blessing already.

A takeover-a-thon for this ASX share

Rounding out the top 3 is Corporate Travel Management, which was praised by more than one analyst for acquiring cheap assets during 2020 after COVID-19 first hit.

It followed up this year with a bid for fellow ASX-listed business Helloworld Travel Ltd (ASX: HLO).

Apparently, the 2021 returns are just the start for this ASX share with 8 out of 11 analysts still recommending it as a buy, according to CMC Markets.

The Motley Fool listed Corporate Travel as one of the top shares to buy this month.

“Morgan Stanley noted that Corporate Travel’s Australia and New Zealand business peaked in the 2019 calendar year,” reported The Motley Fool’s Brendon Lau.

“Adding Helloworld’s CY19 total transaction value of around $1.1 billion provides meaningful change in scale. The broker’s 12-month price target on Corporate Travel shares is $23.50.”

Corporate Travel stock closed Thursday at $22.20 a share.

Motley Fool contributor Tony Yoo owns Corporate Travel Management Limited and Sydney Airport Holdings Limited. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. owns and has recommended Helloworld Limited. The Motley Fool Australia owns and has recommended Helloworld Limited. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended Corporate Travel Management Limited and Flight Centre Travel Group Limited. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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