The troubles that arose late last week for Expedia were immediately read on Wall Street as an isolated problem. Look a little harder, however, and it's a warning flare for the entire travel industry, the currently gloating hotels, the happy-as-clams cruise lines and the always-fouled-up airline business.

Shares of Expedia, one of the leading online travel agencies, lost more than a quarter of their value Friday to finish at $14.51 after a disastrous report of first-quarter earnings. The company blamed the 51 percent plunge in profits on higher expenses and lower demand for vacation packages. Analysts said competitors such as Priceline haven't exhibited similar problems.

But when Americans feel financial pressure, vacations are the first thing to go. As a vulnerable player, Expedia might be the first to feel the effect. In the face of rising prices for oil, utilities and many food items, Americans are making the necessary adjustments, and that could surprise companies such as Starwood Hotels and Hilton (HLT) that have raised rates in expectation of heavy summer and fall demand. A lot of hotel stocks are near multiyear highs.

Get the full story at the Chicago Sun-Times