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.
Agreed. Also, it's very specific 'penalty-free' situations. It's confusing and you can be fully penalized if you don't select the right option when cancelling. It's frustrating that it's promoted this way.
Agreed, it is confusing. I had a single cancellation from a family emergency and was fully penalized with an AirBnB response that it would take a full year to regain my SuperHost status (that I have had for a year and half). Of note, I actually called in to cancel with my details and was penalized anyway. ???
@Jennifer1421 Oh, but they did state that in the OP here-see how they did it?
"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."
They just failed, in the endlessly non-transparent doublespeak in which they seem to think is an acceptable way to communicate, to mention that it's Airbnb itself which will turn off your Instant Book as a punishment.
I agree! I sometimes book on another platform or book directly with previous guests. I dread the thought of simultaneous bookings resulting in overbooking, which I have never done in 13 years of renting my cabin! Sometimes, old-fashioned manual methods are still the best way to go!
@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!!
I absolutely agree with Ann and Suzanne, I ask request GVT ID to instant book however, guests can still book without it, one guests booked with no ID provided, when I asked her to add Govt Issued ID to her profile, she claimed not to have any saying she had not been in the country long enough to get ID ???? So alarm bells immediately rung, the guest then changed the name on her booking, and again could not provide ID.
I had no problem requesting the booking be cancelled, however it would have been better for all concerned if guests could not Instant book unless they meet the Hosts requirements.
The second time I had to request a cancellation a guest had used a family members credit card to book, something I would have thought would be picked up immediately by Airbnb, that the guests name and name on the card were different.
It doesn't make sense to me why a booking couldn't be made with someone else's card. For example I am registered here at ABB but I pay with my husband's card, as he gets extra money for spending money internationally. But whatever the reason, I do not see this as an issue.
(Just to give you some other reasons: my card isn't accepted but my husband's is - because of the issuing bank or if there is a debit/credit card request. Or maybe my credit card reached its limit and his hasn't yet. Or I lost it. Or it expired. Lots of reasons, really.)
We require the cardholder to be one of the guests. We know of another host who has had issues with the cardholder renting for someone else and then when damage was done or linens were stolen, the cardholder claimed no responsibility because he wasn't present as a guest. The policy has not seemed to have hurt us.