Scale Show

Positivity, AI and Growing with Responsibility: What We Learned at the Scale Show in Barcelona

“Positivity” was the name of the game at last week’s Scale Show conference in Barcelona, and the short-term rental industry showed up with a smile for a fun and informative few days, even though we have some difficult problems to tackle.

On day one, Abode Worldwide’s CEO and founder, Jessica Gillingham, led a panel discussion with women founders Noelia Novella of Doinn, Rebecca Cribbin of Holiday Rental Specialists and Cynthia Huang of Dtravel. The session covered diversity and respect as foundations for strong businesses. The speakers highlighted flexibility, community-building and setting boundaries as methods to reach that respect and encourage workers from more diverse backgrounds to join — and, importantly, stay — in your teams. Noelia’s “#IAmRemarkable” movement is a powerful method for encouraging your team to be proud of their work, and Cynthia shared the valuable advice that, only after a few years as an entrepreneur, she realized that setbacks are the rule, not the exception. Perhaps a great leader is not someone for whom everything goes well, but someone who handles problems with grace and vision?

Another key theme of the event was the implementation of AI, which has moved from a fun toy to an operational lifesaver in just a few months. Dale Smith from Host & Stay, Sally Henry of Key Data and Shahar Goldboim from Boom joined Robin Clifford from Guesty for a fascinating panel on how AI can make or break branding, and boost revenue when used right. Dale shared that at Host & Stay, anywhere where they might once have had a passing of the baton from one member of staff to another, that transition is now automated, saving time for staff to focus on the areas where they can really make a difference. Shahar from Boom went into even more depth the following day demonstrating the power of Boom to act as an AI copilot and spot issues before they happen, like a hyper-intelligent copilot.

Of course, the sector is not without its challenges, and regulations across Europe were the topic of discussion in various sessions. Abode’s CEO, Jessica Gillingham, took to the stage for a second time to moderate a panel on advocacy and regulations with Andy Fenner from the UK Short Term Accommodation Association (STAA), Fiona Campbell of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC), Marco Celani from the Italian association Associazione Italiana Gestori Affitti Brevi (AIGAB) & Viktorija Molnar from the European Holiday Home Association (EHHA). A key takeaway from this session were that property managers should work more closely with their associations, asking what they can do for each other and becoming more involved in campaigning.

As Steve Taggert of My Getaways mentioned in a later panel on the role of platforms in the industry, the hotel lobby is incredibly well-funded, well-organized, and effective, while advocacy for short-term rentals is still a relatively new thing. It’s down to each of us to become more involved in the campaigning our sector is doing and help associations to help us.

Last but not least, sustainability was, as ever, a key theme which came up not only in panel sessions but in conversations around the hall, where EnviroRental, Sustonica and Qalia all had stands set up, and the topic was on everyone’s lips. Bob Garner of EnviroRental took to the Knowledge Stage with Uvika Wahi from Rental Scale-Up for practical tips on how to implement sustainable practices in your business, and the powerful effect they can have on bookings and your brand. They made the great point that property managers, at least during their guests’ stays, have a lot of influence over their guests’ choices: what products they use, what businesses they patronize, and even their energy usage. What they do with that influence is powerful, and Bob shared that he has even had guests tell him that they have adopted the eco-friendly products he uses in his properties once they’re back home.

Marc Ribail of Qalia similarly shared that he believes property managers should adjust their plans from “sustainability” to “responsibility”. This wider understanding of sustainability means that their businesses can truly become sustainable — that is, long-lasting and with a positive impact on their communities.

Above all, one tip stayed with me: negativity and climate anxiety won’t encourage anyone to take action. Much like a toddler told “don’t jump in the puddle” who simply ignores the word “don’t”, negative language may even turn guests off from choosing the sustainable option. The same goes for managing teams, and even campaigning and advocating for the industry. If we can take on board just a small part of the positivity that permeated the Scale Show, we might find that the path becomes clearer.

Madeleine Parkin draws on more than five years of experience working with customers, owners, and press in the short-term rental sector to help the industry grow and shine. With a degree in Modern and Medieval Languages from the University of Cambridge, Madeleine is a strong and creative communicator and a reliable teammate, particularly motivated by environmental activism.

Based in Barcelona for more than six years, Madeleine speaks five languages and is passionate about personal connections and storytelling.

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