In this business … it's all about Getting Booked! That's the name of the game. The question is, how? We know the traditional way, the inquiry comes in, and then the back and forth begins.
I call it the “booking dance.” Of course, the end game is getting booked!
The traditional way has its advantages but it can also become time-consuming. If your response is delayed, they just might go and dance somewhere else. Airbnb created an option called… Drum rooooll, please Instant Booking!!
Yes, instant booking… and today that's what we'll be looking into.
Instant Booking – Pros and Cons:
- what is it
- why some use it
- why some hate it
- and why it isn’t going anywhere.
Airbnb started the trend and now it has expanded to other vacation rental platforms like Homeaway.
What is Instant Booking:
Airbnb's Instant Booking doesn’t require approval from the host before the guest can book your space. Instead, guests can just choose their travel dates, book, and discuss check-in plans with the host later… If you're a nervous Nellie… Instant booking can put you on edge…
What does this mean?
If your listing has the instant booking feature activated…. and your dates are available. Your guests can book the days they want without emailing you first. Yes, no, back and forth. No, introduction, no dance. No, Hi my name is Joe. I’m coming to your town for a wedding, graduation, BOTH… Do you have an aquarium? Because I’m allergic to fish. You get my drift.
If you were in the middle of a conversation with another guest, maybe with a better reservation, someone might swoop in with “instant book” and block your ¨better” deal… They just book and surprise, you have a guest arriving.
Do keep in mind… On Airbnb a guest MUST agree to your House Rules first, so please make sure your house rules are righty/tightly. If your house rules consist of “Mi casa, Su casa,” Well, that's just an orgy waiting to happen… Just saying. And if you don’t know where to start, go listen to episode 4 and get your House Rules in order.
Canceling an Instant Booking Reservation.
You can cancel an Airbnb instant bookings penalty-free an unlimited number of times if you’re uncomfortable with a reservation or if a guest breaks one of your House Rules. What does “Penalty-free” mean? You will not pay a fee, lose Superhost status or receive any of the cancellation penalties. Word to the wise… Don’t abuse this cancellation policy. Airbnb does pay attention, and they can close your account if they sense abuse… You've been warned.
With VRBO, which is also HomeAway, you can cancel an instant booking reservation if the traveler does not meet your stated House Rules, Policies, or Terms and Conditions. Their website recommends for you to cancel right away. If a traveler meets all your house rules, then the reservation is confirmed.
Why are the Platforms Pushing Instant Book?
One of the reasons Airbnb has pushed Instant booking is to curtail the many discrimination complaints.
- You don’t like the guest’s photo.
- The way they spell their name
- The reason why they’re coming to your town.
As a host, with Instant booking, you don’t get to decline their reservation.
Another reason for Instant Book is: Guests like it: They don’t have to wait for a host’s response. The back and forth dance.
I use Airbnb when I travel… at times, I’ve waited 24 hours or more to hear back from a host. I know YOU don’t do that. Right?But many hosts don’t respond right away, and that can be so frustrating.
There's a reason we have Response rates: mine is 100% and so should yours and Response time: mine is within an hour and again… So should yours. The reason the ¨response info” IS part of our listing description Is so a guest inquiring about your listing can tell if you're a host who goes missing in action.
So what are the Airbnb and vacation rental platforms doing to entice us, hosts, to get into the Instant Booking train?
It places our listings FIRST when people are searching. Yes, having instant booking turned on can help your listing's visibility. This is the reason I first tried Instant Booking and I've been hooked ever since…. But I’ll tell you more about that later.
What are the Benefits to Using Instant Book?
- Convenience: You don’t have to respond to every request. I was in Cuba this past February and their wifi was limited… but I didn’t want to turn off my listings. Hey – I had guests at the house and work doesn’t stop just because I’m on a quasi-vacation. I was told I might get internet in the morning and maybe at night… It was BRUTAL trying to make sure the house was up and running smoothly. But I’m glad I had my Instant booking ON… because I did get some bookings. Making money while sunbathing…. It was a win-win and not just because I finished that tri.
- More guest interest: Guests can use filters to search for listings that can be booked instantly. And guests do like it.
- Search placement: Because your response rate will improve. Your listing placement in search results goes up.
In addition, the vacation rental platform favors listings that have instant booking turned on.
- Superhost Status: If you care about Superhost status and I’ll do an episode all about that in the future. Instant book can help you because Superhost status requires that you maintain a 90% response rate
Which Guest can Instant Book?
Don’t worry …. not every guest can. You can set some requirements to give you some sense of control. With Airbnb, You have the required standard:
- Confirmed phone number
- Email Address
- Profile Photo
- Payment Information
Additional Requirements for Instant bookings can be:
- Government Issued Identification
- Recommendation from other hosts
Besides Airbnb House Rules of:
- Suitable for children
- Suitable for pets
- Smoking allowed
- Events or parties allowed
You also add your additional House Rules. This is the part where you write your House Rules. Not a novel but again NOT just “Enjoy my house” One more time, please listen episode 4. And you also have A Pre-booking message:
This is a message a guest sees before they can instant book your space. This is a great place to highlight something about your listing that a guest might overlook in their excitement of booking your fantastic home. They’re looking at your photos, not really reading your description, so you tell them here anything that can create any potential issues or bad reviews.
- Did they notice you have a cute cat and they’ll have an asthma attack upon entering your home? Let them know here.
- Do you live in a four story walk-up? This is a good place to let them know as well.
Anything that you think could be an issue with your home.
You also Set Up:
- Advance Notice: Set how much advance notices you need for an Instant Book reservation, from the same day to at least 7 days ahead.
- Cut Off Time: If you allow same day bookings, you can have the option to set a cut off time.
I do same day bookings during the slow season and when I know I’ll be home. It is a bit jarring to find out at 10 in the morning that you’re getting a guest that day… but it’s the slow season. And, you do what you gotta do.
What are the Disadvantages for Instant Bookings?
- A guest doesn’t read your listing:
- They think they’re booking a private apartment and it’s a private bedroom. This happened to me… and it’s awkward.
- You have a cat and they’re allergic. This happened to someone in my Facebook Group The Hosting Journey. You’re part of that group, right? I sure hope so.
- You live in Brooklyn and they want to be in Manhattan. This also happened to me.
- They don’t follow your House rules:
- Because they didn’t read…
- They smoke
- Or want to use the kitchen and you don’t offer it
- Or want to bring strangers
- Or you might be in a conversation with a more lucrative, more suitable guest.
- Or, You can also double book your space if you’re on multiple platforms.
- Also, surprise! You have a guest arriving and neither you nor your space is ready for their arrival.
So be careful when turning instant booking on. Many hosts are dead set against using Instant booking, especially if they’re sharing the space with the guest. I was one of them. I wanted to communicate… Dance…. Have a conversation with the guest before accepting their booking… but instant booking isn’t that bad.
My Instant Booking Experience:
I turned Instant Booking on for my private apartment. Like I mentioned earlier, the inquiries were slow and the bills needed to be paid. I immediately saw an uptick in inquiries. And no issues. The guests were the same as my previous guests, I didn’t get any Martians or strange humans. I actually found it easier. And then about a year, later the same thing happened with my shared space…. inquiries were slow, so I turned it on. And I haven’t turned it off since.
I do live in the house, and I believe that helps deter any strange guests.
When I go away, I always have a caretaker in the house. During my Cuba trip I had Cityamy, a vacation rental management company here in NY, take care of my guests. My guests tend to be families, tourists or professionals. I rarely get college kids or parties.
This has been my experience with Instant Booking… It´s been beneficial and has helped my listings…
BUT I know of hosts who at times turn Instant booking on and then off. Other hosts NEVER turn it on. They just don't like the UNKNOWN… Bottom line, YOU know your hosting style and what works best for YOU.
I hope today’s episode “INSTANT BOOKING Pros and Cons” has answered your questions… Or at least made you more confident in your decision whether this feature is a good one for you, and your listing. Whatever you decide, it’s your home… but know that Instant booking isn’t going away… and according to my friends in the industry… they will continue to push it more and more.
Thanking you for listening and joining me on this amazing Hosting Journey…