Instant Book basics
Instant Book is a powerful tool that allows guests to instantly book your home for available dates—alleviating the need for hosts to review and accept each booking request individually. Many hosts report that they earn more money by making the booking process easier for guests, and that they appreciate the convenience this provides. Listings with Instant Book also tend to show up higher in Airbnb search results. “The Instant Book feature has worked very well for us,” says host Antonio of Goa, India. “I keep the calendar updated and many guests book without my intervention.”
Keeping your calendar up-to-date is key to using Instant Book successfully. If you’re not able to do this, you could be surprised by unexpected bookings or end up canceling a reservation due to a scheduling error—an Airbnb no-no that could result in a cancellation fee. To ensure that your Airbnb calendar is always current, it’s a good idea to sync it with whatever calendar you primarily use (iCal, Google, etc). Here’s a tutorial on how to do that.
Tools for extra peace of mind
Some hosts may initially feel hesitant to use Instant Book because they worry that they won’t have much information about potential guests before booking. You can set your preferences to offer Instant Book only to guests who have received positive reviews from other hosts, and/or guests who have government-issued IDs. You can also create a custom greeting and include important questions (for instance, “Who else will be staying with you? What’s the purpose of your trip? Can you confirm you’ve read the House Rules?) that Instant Book guests will see during their booking process. After the booking is confirmed, you can follow up to ask additional questions if needed. “I used to require reservation requests,” says host Kristine from San Francisco, “but once I realized that what I was looking for in guests (positive ratings) could be handled automatically by Airbnb, it actually made more sense for me to use Instant Book to get the benefits of more views and bookings, while maintaining the same level of guest quality I enjoyed by reviewing requests myself.”
Why you might still get booking requests
Even with Instant Book turned on, there are cases where you might receive booking requests from guests. This could happen if you haven’t updated your calendar in a while, or if you’ve recently needed to cancel a reservation. Guests who don’t meet your criteria to book instantly might also send reservation requests. For any requests that do come through, you’ll need to respond by accepting or declining the reservation, or messaging your prospective guests within 24 hours.
Why some hosts don’t use Instant Book
Despite the many benefits of Instant Book, some hosts find that reservation requests work better for them. Annie, a host in Sonoma, California, uses reservation requests because she only offers long-term stays of 30 days or more, to comply with hosting regulations in her area. “I would love to use Instant Book, but there are a lot more logistics to figure out when you’re hosting someone for that long,” she says. “It’s more like having a tenant.”
Nichola, a host in Guelph, Canada, has an environmental sensitivity that requires her to keep her space scent free, so she uses reservation requests to ensure that guests are willing to agree to her very specific house rules. “I get migraines from scented products so I need to make sure my guests are folks who understand scent allergies,” she says.
Another reason to choose booking requests rather than Instant Book might be that your space has specific qualities that you need to make sure guests understand before their stay. Examples might include a private room in a home that includes pets or children, or an extremely rustic space that might be challenging for certain guests. Booking requests can be a good choice for assuring that guests are aware of all the unique aspects of your home before they visit.
Reliability is key for using Instant Book
Whatever decision you make, remember that Airbnb has strict policies around hosts canceling reservations, because reliability is a critical part of being a great host. That said, if you allow guests to instantly book and are uncomfortable with a reservation once it’s made (for instance, because your prospective guests are asking if they can break your house rules), you can cancel a booking without penalty using the online cancellation tool up to three times per calendar year. Just know that canceling a reservation signals that Instant Book may not be a good fit for you right now, so if you do this, Airbnb may send booking requests instead for your next few reservations.
Want to update your settings to turn Instant Book on or off? Here’s how to do it.
In regards to your practice of penalizing hosts who unwittingly make use your "3 penalty-free" cancellations which is marketed to us as a way to make us more comfortable with using Instant Book, it would be transparent on your part to disclose that Instant Book will be removed from a listing for a time should the host need to make use of any cancellation.
It would also be helpful if you trained your CS staff to be aware of this hidden penalty, so that hosts are not spending hours trying to sort out why Instant Book is no longer working when this happens.
I would suggest that you add this information to your article, "How do penalty-free cancellations work for instant book hosts". In the article it is stated that there are "limits" to cancellations, and that hosts may be required to turn off instant book, "If you cancel a large number of your instantly booked reservations". Hosts are having the feature disappear after a single cancellation. Please make the consequences more transparent.
@Airbnb Please also mention that if a host turns Instant book off, their property will rank lower in the Airbnb property search. Also, please explain to us hosts how it is possible for guests, who clearly DO NOT meet our set requirements(in my case, a guest without government-issued ID on file), to instant book our property anyway?
YES, please explain as this has been happening consistently for me with guests booking with no Gov't issued ID. It takes a lot of time managing this on my end as I have to explain to the guests that this is my requirement and it's noted on my profile. You musn't assume that everyone reads the details on the hosts profile for the property, quite the contrary, most people don't want to take the time. Airbnb should make it MANDATORY for all Hosts/Guests on your site to have a Gov't issued ID scanned for security reasons!!
Annie, a host in Sonoma, California, uses reservation requests because she only offers long-term stays of 30 days or more, to comply with hosting regulations in her area. “I would love to use Instant Book, but there are a lot more logistics to figure out when you’re hosting someone for that long,” she says. “It’s more like having a tenant.”
Correction: Under California law, Annie's guests legally are tenants after 30 days. Airbnb could do a better job of clarifying to hosts that guests who book a long-term stay through Airbnb can still acquire the rights of tenancy that supersede Airbnb policy - a very important reason to eliminate Instant Book as an option for stays of 30 days or more.
"Whatever decision you make, remember that Airbnb has strict policies around hosts canceling reservations, because reliability is a critical part of being a great host."
What about guests who cancel? Is reliability on the part of guests not considered to be important? These days, guests can cancel last minute and Airbnb phones the host on the guest's behalf, pressuring the host to issue a full refund in contravention of the host's cancellation policy. Hosts don't just make up their cancellation policies- they are chosen from the options that Airbnb provides. What's the purpose of a cancellation policy if Airbnb is not going to respect it? What sort of message does this send to guests? That it's perfectly acceptable to just suck up a host's time answering messages, cleaning and preparing the space for the guest, only to have the guest not show up and somehow be entitled to a full refund? While that guest's booking blocked the host's calendar so they lost out on expected income and had no time to rebook the space? How is this disconnect between being a good host and being a good guest fair?
I've IB book on and currently have yet another Guest who has mentioned there's still issues with the website & been able to make an actual booking.
Two of my most recent Guests have said the same issue is happening with both Safari & Chrome & it's been much discussed in here more prominently since the MAJOR Google outages & upgrades of Microsoft platforms.
It would be for the betterment of all if @Airbnb please reached out to these providers and sorted out your IT issues.
Thanks in advance
It would be great if these IT glitches were fixed so we can have Guests IB and come & stay!
When I signed up to use the Airbnb platform I instantly chose instant booking. Now well over two years in as a Superhost I have found no issues using this form of booking. Not ever using the other method of booking I think I might find that way to be extra demanding of time and effort? I have always welcomed first-timers using this platform! I do live on prem so that I find helps a great deal. I do have opening questions that rarely are answered upon reserving and have found less than a handful read through the entirety of the listing! (I have a special “mention this” if the guest has read through). My home has been visited by many. Overnighters to weekenders to just a few days, from weeks to months at a time. I’ve been very happy with this method of reserving a space in my place!
If we choose not to use instant book, why can we no longer make a greeting message, see past reviews or ask pre-vidit questions? As a host who does not want to do instant booking but likes that initial contact with future guests. i think all hosts should have access to the initial greeting and question tools.
Host of Davis Oasis:
Main Stay & Comfort Space