Leveraging Technology to Boost and Revive Travel and Hospitality MSMEs

Various sectors in India, including MSMEs, are undergoing a rapid digital transformation brought on by disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, data analytics, machine learning, and contactless payment solutions. These technologies allow MSMEs to generate actionable insights through an in-depth analysis of their operations and transform their business and operating models to enhance productivity and efficiency. The Covid pandemic accelerated the adoption of new technologies by MSMEs and pushed the sector to embrace innovation for survival and growth. A recent survey of 250 small businesses conducted by Dun & Bradstreet revealed that 51 per cent of the MSMEs reported that digitisation had improved their competitive positioning. 

The pandemic has resulted in a paradigm shift in customer expectations across the travel and hospitality sectors. As far as hotels are concerned, guests expect an efficient and contactless experience across various sales points, be it while checking in, checking out, at restaurants, or room service. Automated touch-screen kiosks and QR code technology can facilitate these customer demands. Customer-focused applications can provide information about the nearest medical facilities, bars, entertainment venues, making the traditional concierge redundant and increasing convenience from the customer’s perspective. Hotel operations software streamlines operations across departments, facilitating communication, responsiveness, boosting productivity, and increasing guest satisfaction. The software also allows guests to access reservation, restaurant, and room service details through a dedicated app providing a convenient alternative to in-person interactions overall enhancing the guest experience. 

With the Omicron variant and the associated lockdowns still on the horizon, limited staff and resources are bound to constrain businesses yet again. Digitisation will allow the travel and hospitality sector to deliver an exceptional customer experience. Utilising WhatsApp, QR code-enabled applications, and FB messenger will remove the need for additional staff members and allow hotel establishments to provide personalised engagement. For MSMEs in the travel and hospitality sector, hygiene has also become indispensable for the overall value proposition. Communicating this value proposition has also become a critical part of the branding strategy. Integrating a mobile-first approach, robotics, chatbots, biometrics, and IoT-enabled devices can facilitate contactless processes assuring customers of adherence to cleanliness standards. Email marketing and social media marketing can be leveraged to communicate these elements through effective marketing campaigns strengthening the competitive positioning of the business or brand. 

Businesses should adopt a strategic approach in regaining lost business. Identifying guest personas and analysing customer segments based on data accumulated across varied touchpoints can be used to build machine learning models. These models can provide valuable insights which can be utilised to develop online engagement strategies, personalised upselling and promotional campaigns, and introduce new products and services. Strategic partnerships with other companies such as Hilton properties’ collaboration with Lysol manufacturer RB for their CleanStay program can further enhance customer awareness and engagement. 

MSMEs in the travel and hospitality sector should adapt to evolving market dynamics and utilise technological solutions to cater to their target markets, enhance customer satisfaction, increase efficiency, reduce operational costs, and increase revenue.