Skift Take

If you thought Priceline was the largest publicly traded travel company in the world by market cap, you'd be very wrong. Two Taiwanese airlines and a global hotel and casino business boast greater bragging rights.

Editor’s Note: Please read The real 15 largest travel companies of 2013 for a corrected version of this story.

What are the names of the 15 largest publicly traded travel companies in the world?

Priceline, which has been signing up hotels and selling room reservations faster than anyone else, assuredly tops the list, right?

Or could it be TUI Travel or Thomas Cook, with their millions of vacation-package customers and private fleets of aircraft?

How about American Express? It indeed operates one of the world’s largest travel agencies, but American Express is essentially a credit card company, and the relative diminutive nature of its travel business keeps it off the Skift list of the top 15 largest publicly traded travel companies around the globe.

Your guesses about which companies make the top 15 likely are off the mark, and the correct answers defy conventional wisdom.

Skift compiled a list of the 15 largest publicly traded travel companies by market cap (see below), and the entries are full of surprises.

Yes, when gauging the largest publicly traded travel companies by market cap, as of June 25, Priceline indeed makes the list at #4, with a market cap of $40.53 billion, but Thomas Cook ($1.72 billion) and TUI Travel ($3.96 billion) don’t even come close to qualifying as being among the top 15 largest travel companies in the world.

Airlines (China Airlines, Eva Airways, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Ryanair, Singapore Airlines, United Continental and Southwest Airlines) dominate the list, taking eight of the top 15 spots.

Hotels/casinos (Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts, Starwood and Marriott) were the next most-represented sector, occupying four of the pegs. One could also include Walt Disney in the hotel category at #5 with its theme parks and resorts business.

There is only one online booking company giant on the list, Priceline (#4),  and one cruise line, Carnival Corp. (#6).

You wouldn’t be alone if China Airlines didn’t roll off your tongue as the world’s largest publicly traded travel company by market cap ($58.21 billion). It is indirectly owned by the Taiwanese government, operates across Asia-Pacific and Europe, and generates roughly a third of its revenue from air cargo operations.

Also based in Taiwan, Eva Airways at #2 ($55.08 billion market cap) is privately owned and operates flights in Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Americas. It, too, has an ample air cargo business, and Eva Airways also offers ground-handling services and duty free products.

Rounding out the top three, Las Vegas Sands ($41.83 billiion market cap) is more than just a bunch of mega hotels, including The Venetian Las Vegas and The Palazzo, and a convention center on the Strip. Las Vegas Sands extends its hotel and casino empire to Macao and Singapore, as well.

Judging a company’s “bigness” by market cap is a conventional and accepted measure, although it is just one way to do it. We also included 2012 revenue (whether it was fiscal or calendar year 2012) in the table below to provide more context.

If we had taken these 15 companies and judged their stature from a travel revenue perspective instead of a market cap lens, then United Continental would head the list with $37.1 billion in 2012 revenue, edging out Delta Air Lines at $36.6 billion.

And, here’s another caveat about the list below of the top 15 publicly traded travel companies by market cap: the market cap tallies are an ever-changing thing.

For example, depending on which day we tallied the list over the last week or so (and we finally used the latest date, June 26), Hertz and Southwest Airlines jockeyed for the last slot at #15.

Southwest prevailed with a market cap at $9.75 billion compared with $9.4 billion for Hertz.

Alas, take a look at the list, and ponder the huge dimensions of these impactful travel companies.

Skift’s Top 15 Publicly Traded Travel Companies

Company Market Cap Revenue 2012
China Airlines $58.21B $2.9B
Eva Airways $55.08B $1.6B
Las Vegas Sands $41.83B $11.1B
Priceline $40.53B $5.2B
Walt Disney* $34.42B $12.9B
Carnival Corp. $28.17B $15.4B
British Airways $26.42B $16.9B
Delta Air Lines $15.55B $36.6B
Ryanair $14.46B $6.8B
Wynn Resorts $12.68B $5.1B
Starwood $12.22B $6.3B
Marriott $12.09B $11.7B
Singapore Airlines $11.76B $9.6B
United Continental $10.27B $37.1B
Southwest Airlines $9.75B $17.09B
Walt Disney’s Co.’s total market cap actually is $112.68 billion. But the company derived only 30.55% of its total revenue in fiscal 2012 from its travel business, namely parks and resorts. The above market cap figure for Walt Disney is 30.55% of its actual total market cap.

Jet Stream Newsletter

Airline news moves fast. Don’t miss a beat with our weekly airline newsletter. Landing in your inbox every Saturday.

Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch

Tags: china, priceline, united airlines

Photo credit: China Airlines, the world's largest travel company, with $58 billion in market cap. NagamasaAzai / Wikipedia

Up Next

Loading next stories