Purpose This study aims to explore how hotels adapt their business models as a strategic response to crisis situations. It sheds light on the processes and methods of business model adaptation during severe crisis situations, such as the COVID-19 outbreak. Design/methodology/approach A single-case study was conducted. Data were collected from the owner/manager of a boutique hotel chain in Chiang Mai, Thailand through an extensive interviewing process. The authors also examined corporate documents. The authors then re-organized the material as a coherent narrative about how the company navigated the COVID-19 crisis. Findings The findings show that the hotels in the study adapted their business models by cutting costs through stopping non-essential operations, increasing non-room revenues and adding new revenue channels, bringing in cash from advance bookings, securing financial support from creditors, leveraging government support and training staff for the "new normal." Originality/value Few previous studies have focused on business model adaptation during the COVID-19 crisis. The investigation of this largely neglected area provides two main contributions. First, it extends the literature on crisis management in hospitality firms by examining business model adaptation patterns and processes during unprecedented crisis conditions. Second, it provides managerial insights and a business model adjustment framework to help practitioners in urban settings in their efforts toward recovery from the COVID crisis.