Hotels, Motels and Hostels

A Business Perspective

A Business Perspective
Article by
Bram Haenraets
Article update
February 28, 2024
Table of Contents

Entering the hospitality industry is akin to standing at a crossroads of endless possibilities. Whether you’re thinking of launching a chic hotel in the city center, a convenient motel off a busy highway, or a vibrant hostel designed for the youthful globetrotter, the choice is a significant one that will inform your business journey ahead. In this comprehensive guide, we peel back the layers of complexity surrounding three primary types of accommodation businesses—Hotels, Motels, and Hostels. We’ll explore their unique features, target audiences, revenue potentials, and operational challenges to help you make an informed decision that aligns with your entrepreneurial vision and capabilities. So let’s dive in and unravel the intricacies of these distinct yet interconnected realms of the hospitality industry.

What is the difference between a hotel, a motel and a hostel?

Hotels are larger establishments that cater to a broad range of clients, from business travelers to tourists. They're usually strategically placed in urban centers or popular tourist destinations to maximize footfall. Hotels typically offer a variety of room types and a slew of amenities, such as restaurants, gyms, conference rooms, and sometimes even spas. Their room rates can vary dramatically depending on the level of luxury you're seeking. You could find a hotel for almost any budget, though they generally lean toward the more expensive side compared to motels and hostels.

Motels are considerably smaller and serve a more niche market: road travelers looking for a convenient overnight stop. As a result, you'll usually find motels along highways or in smaller towns, rarely in major city centers. A defining feature of motels is that you can often access your room directly from the parking lot, making it easier to bring in luggage or take short breaks during long drives. Amenities are usually basic, but the rooms are generally clean and comfortable. As they serve a specific clientele and offer fewer amenities, motels are usually more budget-friendly than hotels.

Hostels, on the other hand, are the go-to option for younger or budget-conscious travelers, including students and backpackers. They offer shared sleeping quarters that are often dormitory-style, along with communal facilities like kitchens and lounges. Unlike hotels and motels, hostels encourage social interaction among guests. They're commonly located in city centers or near tourist attractions and public transportation, making it easier for travelers to explore the area. Hostels are typically the most affordable lodging option and provide basic but functional amenities.

The general differences between a hotel, motel and hostel.

Each of these lodging options has its unique features, targeted audience, and pricing, making them suitable for different types of travelers and needs.

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Should you start a hotel, motel or hostel business?

Entering the hospitality industry is an exciting yet complex endeavor that demands strategic planning and clear vision. One of the first decisions aspiring entrepreneurs must make is the type of establishment they wish to run. Should you invest in a full-fledged hotel with an array of amenities, a roadside motel catering to passing motorists, or perhaps a cozy hostel appealing to young, budget-conscious travelers? Understanding the business pros and cons of each option is crucial to aligning your venture with your financial expectations and management capabilities. In this article, we delve into the comparative advantages and drawbacks of operating hotels, motels, and hostels.

The differences from a business perspective between a hotel, motel and hostel.


Before diving into the distinct advantages and challenges of running a hotel, it's crucial to grasp the bigger picture. The hotel sector is a multifaceted industry that offers significant opportunities for diversified income, but it also demands substantial investment and managerial skill. Hotels are not just places where people sleep; they are ecosystems that provide a range of services and experiences. Whether you're looking at setting up a luxury resort or a budget-friendly inn, understanding the inherent pros and cons can significantly influence your business strategy. Here, we dissect what it means to step into the hotel business, both in terms of potential gains and the challenges you should anticipate.


  • Higher Revenue Potential: Hotels generally have multiple revenue streams. In addition to room rentals, they can offer amenities such as conference rooms, restaurants, wellness facilities like spas and gyms, and sometimes even retail spaces. These diverse options provide opportunities for higher revenue per guest.
  • Branding Opportunities: Hotels can be transformed into lifestyle brands with the right marketing and customer service. Being a go-to establishment for tourists and business travelers not only increases revenue but also enhances brand equity.


  • High Operational Costs: Starting and running a hotel requires a significant financial outlay. Costs include everything from construction and interior design to staffing and utility bills. Moreover, specialized staff like concierge services, cleaning crews, and kitchen staff, contribute to higher ongoing operational costs.
  • Complexity: Managing a hotel is no small feat. It demands meticulous planning, constant oversight, and a large, well-coordinated staff. The need for multiple roles—from housekeeping to management—adds layers of complexity to operations.


Before we explore the specific advantages and drawbacks of owning a motel, it's essential to set the stage for what running a motel actually entails. Unlike their hotel counterparts, motels are typically smaller establishments focused on providing essential lodging needs for road travelers. They are designed for convenience, with easy access from major highways or roads, and rooms usually opening directly onto a parking lot. While motels may not offer the luxury or variety of services found in hotels, they have their own unique set of benefits and challenges. Read on as we delve into the key aspects that make motels a distinct business model, providing a roadmap for potential owners to gauge whether this path aligns with their entrepreneurial vision.


  • Lower Operating Costs: Because motels offer fewer amenities and require less staff, they are generally less expensive to operate. The simplified model translates into fewer operational headaches and lower expenditure.
  • Ease of Management: With fewer services to coordinate and a smaller staff, motels are generally easier and less complex to manage compared to full-service hotels.


  • Limited Revenue Streams: Since motels don't usually offer additional amenities like restaurants or gyms, the majority of revenue comes from room rentals, limiting opportunities for additional income.
  • Local Competition: Motels are often situated along busy roads and highways, where competition can be fierce. Because the target market is motorists looking for a quick stay, price often becomes the most significant differentiating factor.


Before we delve into the specific pros and cons of starting and running a hostel, it's crucial to understand what this business model entails. Hostels are specialized accommodation options that cater predominantly to younger travelers, often offering dormitory-style sleeping arrangements and communal facilities. Unlike hotels and motels, hostels aim to foster a sense of community among guests, usually featuring shared kitchens, lounges, and sometimes even group activities. This community-driven approach defines the hostel experience, shaping both its opportunities and challenges. Read on to explore the facets that make the hostel business unique, equipping potential entrepreneurs with insights to evaluate whether this model aligns with their goals and visions.


  • High Occupancy: The shared-room model allows for high occupancy rates, fitting more guests into a smaller space. This could result in higher overall revenue if managed effectively.
  • Younger Demographics: Hostels are popular among younger travelers, who are often more likely to share their experiences on social media. This organic marketing can be a significant advantage.


  • Less Profit Per Guest: Although you may have high occupancy, the cost per bed is generally much lower than a hotel or motel room, requiring high volumes to generate significant profit.
  • Seasonal Demand: Hostels often experience seasonal fluctuations. Being popular among young travelers and backpackers, many hostels find it challenging to maintain business during off-seasons, which can significantly impact revenue.

Making Your Choice

When choosing which path to follow, consider your target audience, your preferred level of involvement, and of course, your budget. If you’re looking for a larger operation with multiple revenue streams, a hotel may be the right fit. For those leaning towards a smaller, more hands-on approach, a B&B or a hostel could be more appealing. For a mid-level option that offers ease of operation, a motel may be just right.

Whatever your choice may be, remember that the hospitality industry is not just about providing a bed for the night; it's about creating a memorable experience for your guests. So choose a model that you’re passionate about and one that aligns with your vision.


The journey into the hospitality industry is filled with choices, each leading to unique entrepreneurial experiences and challenges. Whether it's the expansive revenue streams and branding potential of hotels, the operational simplicity of motels, or the community-centric model of hostels, your choice will shape not only your business but also the experiences of your guests. The key to success lies in aligning your venture with your personal goals, financial capacity, and the specific needs of your target audience. Remember, hospitality is not merely about offering a place to sleep—it's about creating an experience that resonates with your guests. So choose a path that you're genuinely passionate about, one that mirrors your vision for what hospitality should be. As you embark on this exciting venture, let this guide serve as a roadmap to help you navigate the complexities and opportunities that await.

Frequently Asked Questions


What's the Difference Between a Hotel, Motel, and Hostel?

Hotel: Big and fancy, with lots of rooms and extras like restaurants. Great for tourists and business people. Motel: Smaller, near highways, perfect for travelers needing a quick stop. Simple and affordable. Hostel: Fun and budget-friendly, often with shared rooms. Ideal for young travelers and making new friends.


Why Start a Hotel, Motel, or Hostel?

Hotel: For a big business with more ways to make money, like offering meals and events. Motel: Good for a simpler, smaller business, easier to run. Hostel: Best if you like a social, lively atmosphere and catering to young, budget-conscious travelers.


How to Choose: Hotel, Motel, or Hostel?

Hotel: If you want a big business and can invest more. Motel: If you prefer something smaller and easier to handle. Hostel: If you enjoy a social vibe and want to attract young travelers.