Yoshimi Kunieda

Resilience of hotel industries during COVID-19 crisis

- Comparison between an international hotel chain and two Japanese chains -


Nearly three years after the pandemic that erupted in early 2020, many countries appear to be returning to normal. According to the IMF (April 2022), the global economic growth rate is expected to slow down from 6.0% in 2021 to 3.6% in 2022 and 2023. With this situation in mind this study examines the state of recovery of the hotel industries worldwide and Japanese hotel chains that had been enjoying inbound demand prior to the pandemic, by utilizing the indicators of UNWTO and IR information such as Financial Results. Recently the Japanese government announced that the measure to limit the entry of international tourists was lifted. Visa exemption arrangements will be resumed from October 11, 2022, that would stimulate the tourism business to strengthen their resilience in the near future. 

Keywords: Resilience, COVID-19, UNWTO indicators, IR information, Japan

1. Introduction

At the end of 2019, the new coronavirus infectious disease (hereinafter referred to as COVID-19) engulfed the world, movement of people was restricted and cities were locked down. Since then, this pandemic appears to be fading away, despite some differences depending on the regions, while the infection occurs repeatedly in waves. The Figure 1 shows the trend of international tourist arrivals from January 2020 to July 2022. 

Figure 1, International Tourists Arrivals from Jan. 2020-Jul. 2022

In the early stages of the spread of the infection, tourism fell sharply, and after that, it continued to slump, and then turned to a recovery trend, but as of May 2022, it is −46% (globally), and it will take some time until a complete recovery for the Asia Pacific (−83%), compared to the recovery trend in Americas (−33%) and Europe. 

Oxford Economics (2021) reports that as of August 2021, leading indicators of global trade and investment continue to show strong growth, with strong consumer confidence indicators in developed economies. However, certain some Asian and developing countries, where activity in the service sector remains subdued and the impact of the rising COVID-19 is being seen, with sectors such as travel and tourism are still a long way off from fully resuming. 

Financial crises, extreme weather events (World Economic Forum 2015), and the number of these high-risk events worldwide has increased steadily from about 350 in 1980 to about 1000 per year in 2014 (GAR, 2015). McKinsey (2021) recognizes that companies need to consider such risk-return trade-offs and make the necessary financial preparations to withstand uncertainty, but today says that more than just economic resilience is needed, true resilience requires a balanced focus on six dimensions: financial, operational, technological, organizational, reputational, and the business model. I present below a discussion of how these dimensions are relevant to the examples of two Japanese hotel chains.

Source: Created by the author based on the UNWTO Tourism Recovery Tracker

Antiseptic in front of old folk house cafe in Ise

2. Previous literature

Vogus and Sutcliffe (2007) define resilience as "the maintenance of positive adjustment under challenging conditions such that the organization emerges from those conditions strengthened and more resourceful" Wildavsky (1988, p. 77) described resilience as the “capacity to cope with unanticipated dangers after they have become manifest, learning to bounce back. ‘While some may view the story of the Roman Empire as ancient history, many of today’s most successful modern global businesses have used similar strategies to achieve strategic supremacy’ (D’Aveni et al., 2001, p.18). The field of strategic management can borrow and benefit from political science. First, nations and commercial firms are both human-made systems, so they share many commonalities; and, second, the ability of nations to endure and thrive despite escalating administrative complexities explains why such systems offer unique insights into firms’ longevity and resilience (Carmeli and Markman, 2011, 323). 

Mandojana and Bansal ( 2016 ) suggested organizational resilience is the ability of organizations to anticipate, avoid, and adjust to shocks in their environment. Resilient firms must sometimes be willing to take financial losses in order to realize the longer-term benefits. 

Therefore, the method I use in this paper would be tourism indicators of UNWTO and Investors Relation data sources of the hotel industry to analyze the resilience from the impact of the COVID-19 during Jan. 2020- July, 2022. 

3. Organizational resilience comparisons 

3-1. Top class international hotel chain X 

Hotel worldwide, one of the leading hotel chains in the world has 6,837 properties with 1,074,791 rooms in 122 countries and territories as of December 31, 2021. COVID-19 has resulted in massive cancellations in 2020, resulting in full and partial suspension of operations in many areas. However, as of December 31, 2021, all hotels that had been closed have now reopened. The performance before and after COVID-19 is shown in Figure 2, and although the net profit is negative in 2020, a recovery trend can be seen since then. 

Figure 2: Business of X Hotel Chain in 2019-2022 (Forecast)

Source: Nikkei online 

Source: IR data 

3-2.Hotel chain in Japan

 Y hotel chain in Japan has 25 hotels, mostly in western Japan. Of the 21 directly managed hotels, Y Hotels will gradually close six unprofitable hotels by the end of fiscal 2025. As competition intensified, the hotel was hit by the pandemic and was forced to accelerate its earnings improvement. Therefore, they have frozen new hiring temporarily. 

Figure 3: Business of Y hotel chain in west Japan 

The number of employees will be reduced from approximately 2,300 to 1,500 in four years. Due to the intensifying competition, the company's operating loss for the fiscal year ending March 2020 was 3.4 billion yen. 

Furthermore, the company expects a deficit of 18.7 billion yen in the fiscal year ending March 2021. They aim to be profitable by the fiscal year ending March 2023 by restructuring the hotel and reducing personnel expenses. In 2022, compared to the previous fiscal year, in both the accommodation division and the food and beverage division, sales and profit increased due to a recovery in the number of customers.

Figure 4: Business of Z hotel chain, east Japan  

Source: IR data

Main street of Ise in Feb. 2022

Next, I will discuss another example based (Figure 4): Z hotel. Z Hotel has announced that it will sell 31 of its 50 domestic facilities, including golf courses, to a government investment fund. Z Hotel, however, will keep responsibility for operations, and keep the facility name. The company has already factored this into the 2022 earnings forecast. This is expected to increase net income by 7.7 times from the previous term to 82 billion yen. Z Hotel posted an operating loss of 13.2 billion yen in the fiscal year ended March 2022 (a deficit of 51.5 billion yen in the previous fiscal year) due to sluggish demand driven by the coronavirus. Hotel Z is advancing an “asset-light” strategy to reduce assets held and improve management efficiency.

4. Result 

According to the annual Japan Tourism Agency survey, the results in 2019 and the two years after the pandemic, the resilience of Major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, and popular destinations such as Kyoto, Hokkaido, and Okinawa are still at 60% of total number of overnight guests in 2019. Japanese tourists have not yet returned to normal consumer patterns. 

To sum up, business results for international hotel chains have had a faster, enhanced  recovery in the US and EU markets due to early removal of travel restrictions. Yet, the Asia Pacific market is still cautious about being affected. The survey shows that Japanese hotel management has low profit margins, so in the case of a crisis, it will take a long time to recover. In that sense, Y hotel’s restructuring and Z hotel’ s transition to contract management are commendable. With this pandemic as an opportunity, in terms of risk management, Japanese hotels may very well increase profitability on a regular basis by applying the six resilience factors according to Mackenzie. In this paper, I focused on financial and operational factors, specifically. 


Carmeli, A. and G. Markman, 2011(2011)Capture, Governance, and Resilience: Strategy Implications from The History of Rome, Journal of Strategic Management, 32: 322–341. 

D’Aveni, RA, RE Gunther and J Cole (2001) Strategic supremacy: How industry leaders create growth, wealth, and power through spheres of influence, Simon and Schuster. 

GAR (2015) Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015, https://www.preventionweb.net/english/hyogo/gar/2015/en/home/ 

IMF (2022), World Economic Outlook April 2022, https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WEO/Issues/2022/04/19/world-economic- outlook-april-2022, 

McKinsey (2021) The resilience imperative: Succeeding in uncertain times, https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/risk-and-resilience/our-insights/the-resilience- imperative-succeeding-in-uncertain-times 

Mandojana, N. and P. Bansal(2016)The long-term benefits of organizational resilience through sustainable business practices, Strategic Management Journal, 37: 1615–1631.

Oxford Economics (2021) Global | Coronavirus Watch: Delta risks versus inflation risks, https://www.oxfordeconomics.com/resource/delta-risks-versus-inflation-risks/ 

Vogus, T. J and K. M. Sutcliffe (2007) Organizational Resilience: Towards a Theory and Research Agenda, IEEE international conference, 3418-3422. 

Wildavsky, A. B. 1988. Searching for safety. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers World Economic Forum (2015) Global Risks 2015, https://reports.weforum.org/global-risks- 2015/ 

Yoshimi Kunieda

Vice President of Osaka Seikei University,Professor at the School of Global Tourism and business since April 2022. Completing second semester of Graduate School of Management Strategy, Kwansei Gakuin University.  PhD (Advanced Management). 

Researcher of "COVID-19 crisis resilience in tourism". (JSPS Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research 21K12417) and "Theoretical and empirical research on tourism management in an ageing society" (JSPS Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research 17K02059).

Other research: "Theory on Tourism Flow Management in World Heritage Sites such as Mont Saint-Michel (France), Yakushima Island and Nara Prefecture" (JSPS Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research 25360033).

She also researches consumer emotions in relation to product and service choice on the Internet.

After working for Japan Airlines and the Nikko Hotel in Osaka, she was director of the Public Relations and Audience Division of the Nara Prefectural Government and advisor to the Tourism Exchange Bureau.

2012 Professor

2015 Vice President of Osaka Seikei College

2017 Vice President and Head of the Department of Global Tourism Business, Osaka Seikei University.

The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.

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