VRWS Leadership Interview of the Day

In approaching the 11th edition of the Vacation Rental World Summit, we’re releasing a series of interviews to leaders, key players and highly motivated people in our industry whose companies make a deep impact in our space and will be present at VRWS.

The aim is to get you some insight into these leaders and the company they founded, manage or work for, as well as getting some behind the scenes on their thinking, their motivation and their drive.

ROBIN CLIFFORD

ROBIN CLIFFORD

EMEA Sales Director @ Guesty

1.What do you do for a living and which part of your job do you enjoy the most?

I’m the EMEA Sales Director at Guesty. The part of the job I enjoy the most is engaging with the travel community and learning how Guesty can help elevate the guest experience. The travel industry is a tight-knit community, and it’s great to meet my industry friends at various conferences around the world, such as the VRWS.

2. How does your company innovate or adapt to the evolving needs of the vacation rental space?

By listening to the Guesty community, they are at the centre of everything we build. The people closest to the problems are best placed to suggest solutions. It may be a boring answer, but they make the whole thing work. I’ve been in the travel space for over 20 years, and there are a lot of people on stages who do a lot of talking, but learnings are most often found from those in the audience.

3. How do you view the various predictions about AI’s impact on society, ranging from dystopian scenarios to transformative advancements, and how does your company approach or integrate AI technology?

Humans don’t have good intuition for the exponential; we think linearly. There were no exponential processes during our evolutionary history, so we are not familiar with them. Larger organisations will find it harder to adapt; smaller organisations have advantages, as do startups. We will see one- or two-employee unicorns appear. People have watched Nvidia rise, money is attention, and LLM’s generative AI models have also allowed the consumer to see AI up close and personal. These have made everyone aware of AI “suddenly,” but it’s been coming for a while. The risk of overhype short term and fear of dystopian outcomes feels overblown, and the very existence of this question is a good indicator of that. We seem to be early to middle in the breakout, and insiders still seem to think there is low-hanging fruit during the next couple of years, so expect more rapid progress, and nobody really knows when it will level off.

Everyone may have some form of an AI agent friend by the end of the decade, and it will be able to engage with other AIs on one’s behalf. Consumer and workplace UXs could become novel, and new hardware forms may develop outside mobile phones because of AI multi-modality capabilities, but real-world hardware takes time to conceive and execute upon. AI needs to work with what we have first, and then we adapt the world to it. AI comes to us before we go to AI.

AI will boost productivity globally, and the TAM for travel will just go up. Everyone wins if they can adapt and execute. Travel wasn’t big in hunter-gatherer times, so technology increases wealth, and we can expect a rising tide to lift all travel boats. Over-tourism and sustainability will be challenges for our industry, and governments will be keen to disperse travel away from current hotspots. This is good news for Airbnb!

Here at Guesty, AI has been at the centre of our recent product launches, such as Guesty Price Optimiser and Reply AI. My advice to property managers and companies within the travel industry is to rely on off-the-shelf solutions such as the ones that Guesty provides rather than burning calories building their own tech. I say this because you’re taking a risk building tech when change is so rapid that next year’s advancements are materially superior to today’s.

Lately, my sense is everyone is an expert in AI, but I remind you that even a broken clock is right twice a day. Focus on your core business.

4. What would you like to achieve by attending the Vacation Rental World Summit 2024 in Porto with your company?

I’m always looking to hear from the Guesty and wider travel community about what products they would like to see us launch next to take advantage of the opportunities that may lie ahead. I aim to assess the general consensus on what the future may hold, new challenges, and how we can help. You may have a good business, but as beautiful a place as the comfort zone is, nothing much grows there. We need to keep evolving, so I attend to learn.

5. What are your passions, including any hobbies or sports, that you enjoy discussing and sharing with others outside the professional setting?

My sense has always been that life moves too fast for my liking, so I detach and enjoy solitude. I’ll spend 6 hours on my local river back in Ireland, fly fishing for wild salmon. With just curious cows for company, they don’t care about AI, blockchain technology, or the travel industry. I often wonder if they’re thinking, “God, that guy has been coming here for 25 years, and I’m not sure if I’ve even seen him catch anything. And the odd time he does, he releases the fish. What an odd man, but he is our odd man, and we have grown fond of him.” I don’t talk to them much, but I consider them close friends by now.

Not including cows, I have 7 close friends. Like Snow White with the midgets, you only need 7!

You’ll have the opportunity to meet Robin directly at VRWS in Porto

Not Yet Registered for VRWS?