Feb 22 (Reuters) - Online travel agent Booking Holdings beat analysts' expectations for fourth-quarter profit on Thursday, driven by a strong recovery in Asian markets.

Travel companies have been boosted by returning demand in Asia, especially China, the final region lagging in recovery after the pandemic.

Booking reported an increase of 9% in booked room nights for the quarter ended Dec. 31.

The company's adjusted profit was $32 per share, compared with analysts' estimate of $29.86 per share, according to LSEG data.

"We are confident in the long-term growth of leisure travel," Booking CEO Glenn Fogel said.

The company reported net income of $222 million for the fourth quarter, down 82% from prior year.

Shares of the company were down about 5% in extended trading.

"Gross travel bookings grew 16% year-over-year versus our forecast for 21% growth. This represents a slight deceleration versus 2019’s level versus last quarter," Morningstar analyst Dan Wasiolek said.

Total quarterly revenue was $4.79 billion, up 18% from a year earlier. Analysts on average had expected revenue of $4.71 billion. (Reporting by Aishwarya Jain and Kannaki Deka in Bengaluru; Editing by Pooja Desai and Maju Samuel)