Frustrated Panda in a traditional hotel

Why Traditional Hotels Suffer More During Economic Downturns

Economic downturns are like your uninvited guests; they show up when you least expect them and create chaos. The hotel industry is often the first industry to feel the effects – like the Covid pandemic. 

However, not all accommodations are created equal. Traditional hotels suffer more during these times than budget-friendly alternatives like Airbnb, boutique hotels, and our very own Panda Pod capsule hotel. But why is that? Let us find out on below. 

What is a Traditional Hotel Cost?

When we think of traditional hotels, we often picture grand lobbies, fancy room service, gyms, and maybe even a spa. These amenities are great for travelers looking for comfort and luxury. 

However, they come with high operational costs. Staffing, maintenance, and utilities are just a few of expenses that these hotels have to bear. 

These costs remain relatively fixed, regardless of whether the hotel is bustling with guests or eerily quiet. In an economic downturn – these fixed costs can turn to a financial nightmare.

Why Traditional Hotels Struggle Now?

On top of the Covid-19 pandemic, there are more reasons why traditional hotels find it hard to adapt during economic downturns:


Traditional hotels often find themselves shackled by their own operational process. Being part of larger chains with standardized services and amenities, they lack the agility to adapt to trending changes like technology and a new generation of customers. 

This inflexibility can be a significant disadvantage during economic downturns when quick adjustments to services or pricing can introduce a bigger problem – the cost. 

High Overheads

The grandeur of traditional hotels comes at a price—high overhead costs. From maintaining various amenities to staffing, the costs can quickly add up. 

During an economic downturn, these fixed costs can become a significant burden, especially when room bookings are low or no bookings at all. The inability to scale down these costs effectively can lead to a financial strain. 

Customer Expectations

Traditional hotels have set high standards for customer service and amenities. While this is excellent for branding, it becomes a double-edged sword during economic downturns.

Cutting back on services or amenities to save costs can lead to negative reviews and customer dissatisfaction, further driving down bookings and revenue. 

High Interest Rates

One of the most overlooked yet critical challenges that traditional hotels face, especially during economic downturns, is the burden of high interest rates. 

These rates can be particularly crippling for all hotels including the budget-friendly options – difficulty financing their operations or expansions through loans. High interest rates are putting additional financial strain on hotels that are already grappling with low occupancy rates and market changes.

According to an article on Hospitality Investor, big hotel brands are finding it increasingly difficult to sell their remaining assets due to these high interest rates. The elevated rates make it less appealing for potential buyers to franchise, as the cost of financing the purchase becomes prohibitively high.


The impact of high interest rates extends beyond the immediate financial burden. It also limits the hotel’s ability to invest in upgrades, marketing, and other initiatives that could help attract customers. 

The Rise of Modern Alternatives

The rise of affordable modern alternatives and budget-friendly options changed the game. Pioneering this Rise is Airbnb, capsule hotels in Japan, short-stay accommodations, and boutique hotels.

These models have disrupted the traditional hotel industry by offering something different—minimalism, uniqueness, practicality, and affordability. Capsule hotels, for example, maximize space utilization, offering just the essentials for comfort and sleep. 

Boutique hotels often focus on providing a unique, localized experience rather than a plethora of services. These features not only attract a different kind of traveler, but also significantly reduce operational costs.

Why Modern Alternatives are more Resilient

Below are why modern alternatives fare better than traditional hotel models:


One of the most significant advantages of modern alternatives like capsule hotels is their adaptability. These hotels can quickly pivot their business models to suit changing market conditions. 

For instance, a capsule hotel could easily convert the unused space into a co-working area or offer long-term stay discounts to attract a different customer base.

Lower Costs

Modern alternatives often operate on leaner business models with fewer amenities, translating to lower operational costs. This leanness is particularly advantageous during economic downturns, as these accommodations can maintain profitability even when bookings are not at peak levels – Operating efficiently on a tighter budget makes these modern alternatives more resilient to economic shocks. 

Niche Appeal

Capsule hotels, boutique hotels, and other modern alternatives often cater to a specific niche or customer needs. 

This focus allows them to maintain a steady flow of bookings, even when the broader market is struggling. Whether it’s the budget-conscious traveler or the experience-seeking millennial, these hotels know their audience and how to keep them engaged.

2008 vs. 2020: Comparison Downturns

The hospitality industry has faced multiple challenges over the years, but comparing the 2008 financial crisis to the 2020 economic downturn offers a fascinating look at how the sector has evolved. 

According to an article by Hostfully, the 2008 crisis was primarily a financial meltdown that led to reduced consumer spending, affecting traditional hotels significantly due to their high operational costs and inflexibility. However, the 2020 downturn, fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, had a more universal impact, affecting most accommodations, including modern alternatives like Airbnb.

Image by jcomp

What’s interesting is how the industry has adapted between these two significant events. In 2008, the focus was mainly on cost-cutting, reducing services and amenities, which often resulted in negative customer experiences. 

In contrast, the 2020 downturn saw both traditional and modern pivoting to new business models, offering remote work packages, long-term stays, and enhanced safety protocols. This adaptability benefits modern alternatives because they operate on leaner and more flexible business models.

The comparison between these two downturns highlights the increasing resilience and adaptability of the hospitality industry, especially among modern alternatives like capsule hotels. It also underscores the importance for traditional hotels to evolve and adapt to remain competitive in an ever-changing economic landscape.

Why We Care

Economic downturns are difficult for everyone, not just the hotel industry, but it doesn’t have to be a default reason why hotel chains suffer. Understanding the limitations of the traditional hotel model and the advantages of modern alternatives, we can better prepare for future economic challenges.

So the next time you hear about an economic downturn, maybe consider booking a stay at a modern alternative. Not only will you save some cash, but you’ll also be part of the hospitality revolution!

  • September 1, 2023
  • Franchising
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