Reflecting on the Year of the Snake: What the Chinese New Year Predicts for Your Hotel

By Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng.

As you are probably already aware, the lunar-centric Chinese New Year rang in with many-a-cheer on February 10th with the induction of the Year of the Snake. Cosmological and horoscope predictions abound, but they tend to vary wildly depending on the source. In its place, I base my takeaways on the creature's unique and peculiar biology. As surface impressions go, snakes are venomous, deadly predators of the most primeval kind. They're outright scary – heck, even Indiana Jones was afraid of them!

As hoteliers, we strive to create an environment for our consumers that is the opposite of what the serpent's facade embodies. And yet, there are still many traits of the snake which can be applied to your business to generate positive results. Perhaps the Year of the Snake, even with all the negative connotations, will prove to your year to shine!

Efficiency: Snakes may appear as slithering masses of laziness given their propensity for long stretches of inactivity and immobile digestion periods that can last days at a time. This is not so. Vipers, boas and all in between are lightning fast, but only when they want to be. In fact, because they are specially adapted to capture prey much larger than other predators of equal mass, they don't need to move around a whole lot – they are instead highly efficient with their bodily movements, misusing nothing.

Application: When you decide to act, are you simply reacting to whatever's around or do you proceed in a manner that will extract the highest yield possible? When it comes to meetings, are you going after the largest clients (prey) available or do you settle for ‘leftovers'?

Masters of Scent: For those of you who haven't watched the Discovery Channel lately, a snake's bifurcated tongue is actually its smell center, feeling the environment and deciding based on a differential analysis of the two tips which direction has better opportunities. Although they have eyes and ears, both are only really used in a ‘fight or flight' response. As humans we tend to rely almost too heavily on sight and sound. Evolutionarily speaking, both are newer senses. Scent is much more primordial and thus more heavily integrated with the deeper emotional centers in our mind, often called our ‘reptilian brain'.

Application: Knowing that scent can have a powerful and largely subconscious emotional effect on your guests' perceptions of your property, look for ways to incorporate a subtle scent here and there to augment the onsite experience. 

Streamlined Elegance: Again, on the surface, snakes look overly simple and devolved – a throwback to a time predating even the dinosaurs. They don't even have legs! And yet they have been stalwart survivors for hundreds of millions of years. Where some see simplicity and austerity, this should instead be framed as elegant design (whether that design comes from evolutionary mechanisms or a higher power I leave up to you). Snakes don't need legs because they are getting along just fine without them!

Application: Try to ‘uncomplicate' your business model. Just as a snake doesn't waste its energy on building legs, perhaps you have operations that produce results but are nonetheless diverting resources away from more profitable ventures. Refocus on making one or two aspects of your property truly exceptional instead of attempting to do everything with maximal efficacy.

Diversity: For a cold-blooded animal, snakes exist almost everywhere, covering more territory than any other reptilian subclass with over 3,000 different species. Despite their relatively uniform shape (cylindrical), snakes come in a full spectrum of colors, pattern and textures, each expertly adapted to their particular niche within an ecosystem.

Application: Whatever broad business principles, marketing techniques or operational tenets you hold dear, you must adapt them to your specific environment. What works for a hotel in Macau will not work for a hotel in Las Vegas, even though there are many commonalities and many lessons that can be learned. Nothing is 100% transferrable; it's your job to know what niche your hotel fits into, and then be the best in that niche.

Patience: Snakes are patient predators. They aren't constantly slinking about foraging for whatever scraps they find. Instead, serpents wait, preferring to hide and maybe lay some bait over wasting precious resources out on the hunt. This requires wit and patience, two characteristics snakes have in spades. So, while all the other carnivores burn through their energy stores in a desperate search for their next meal ticket, the snake is posed under a rock or up in a tree, letting the prey do all the work.

Application: What are you doing to let consumers come to you with their business instead of having to vigorously ‘hunt down' your next quarter's occupancy numbers? Not to say that the hunt is unnecessary, but part of your strategy should be devoted to developing methods of getting new guests flocking to you without direct incentive, thus growing an almost perpetual quality in your business structure.

About Larry Mogelonsky

larry_mogelonskyLarry Mogelonsky ([email protected]) is the president and founder of LMA Communications Inc. (, an award-winning, full service communications agency focused on the hospitality industry (est. 1991). Larry is also the developer of Inn at a Glance hospitality software. As a recognized expert in marketing services, his experience encompasses Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Preferred Hotels & Resorts, as well as numerous independent properties throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Larry is a registered professional engineer, and received his MBA from McMaster University.

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