The purpose of the paper is to find out how chain affiliation, an important strategic choice and a key determinant for hotel performance, influences the strategy-performance nexus in the emerging economy context. It combines the resource- and institution-based views to investigate how chain affiliation moderates the relationship between competitive strategy and performance. This is done by distinguishing between market-based strategies based on differentiation or cost leadership, and non-market strategies that manifest in institutional advantage. The empirical analysis draws from original survey data on 162 hotels located in the Russian cities Moscow and St. Petersburg. The paper finds that first, in emerging economies the competitive edge of chain-affiliated hotels largely arises from market-based advantage, but only in terms of cost advantage. The finding that differentiation advantage is not an important factor of performance for chain-affiliated hotels suggests that firm-level resources derived from chain affiliation would not transform into competitive advantage in the emerging economy context. Second, it is found that institutional advantage is more important determinant of performance for independent hotels, demonstrating the importance of local knowledge and relationships for firms in emerging economies. This finding also suggests that chain affiliation might be rather a strategic constraint than asset for creating superior performance via institutional advantages in the emerging economy context.