instant booking pros and cons

Instant Booking Pros and Cons : Best Practices for Hosts

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Should vacation rental hosts turn instant booking on? This is a hotly debated question in the world of vacation rental hosting. There are instant booking pros and cons aplenty, and it ultimately comes down to what is best for your rental business. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of Airbnb and Vrbo’s instant booking features so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not to use them for your own rental property.

So let’s get started.

What is Instant Booking?

Instant booking is a feature offered by some vacation rental property owners and websites that allows guests to book their stay without first contacting the owner or manager. This means that, once you’ve found a property you like, you can usually click a button to confirm your reservation and pay for your stay – all without having to wait for someone to get back to you.

While this can be a great convenience for guests, it’s important for hosts to consider the pros and cons of instant booking to see if it’s right for them.

Pros of Instant Booking

There are some definite advantages to offering instant booking for your vacation rental property, including:

Convenience for Guests: As we mentioned, convenience is the biggest advantage of instant booking. For guests, this means that they can usually book their stay without having to wait for someone to get back to them. This can be a huge time-saver, especially if you’re trying to book a stay during busy times or last-minute.

Faster Bookings: Because guests don’t have to wait for a response from the host, instant booking can also lead to faster bookings. This is great news for hosts, as it means that you can fill up your calendar more quickly.

Eliminates Barriers to Booking: In some cases, guests may be hesitant to book a vacation rental because they’re not sure how to contact the host or don’t want to wait for a response. Instant booking can eliminate these barriers and make it easier for guests to book your property.

More Search Visibility and Better Ranking: On some listing sites, offering instant booking can help your property show up in more searches and improve your ranking. This is because these sites often favor properties that offer this feature.

The last item is a huge selling point, as you are more likely to appear in search results if you offer instant booking. This is a big pro, as it can help increase your bookings and grow your business.

Cons of Instant Booking

Of course, there are also some potential drawbacks to offering instant booking, including:

Less Communication: One of the disadvantages of instant booking is that it can lead to less communication between guests and hosts. This can be a problem if guests have questions about the property or their stay.

Potential for Miscommunication: Since there is less communication between guests and hosts, there is also a greater potential for miscommunication. This can be frustrating for both guests and hosts, so it’s important to make sure that your listing is clear and accurate before offering instant booking.

Less Flexibility: Instant booking can also mean less flexibility for both guests and hosts. For example, if a guest needs to change their dates or cancel their stay, they may not be able to do so without contacting the host. And, if a host needs to make a change to their calendar, they may not be able to do so without canceling all of their instant bookings.

Penalty for Canceling: On some listing sites, hosts who cancel an instant booking may receive a negative account rating if they do it too often. This can be a big problem if you need to cancel for a legitimate reason, such as maintenance issues or double bookings and want to keep your great rating as a host at the same time.

As you can see, there are both pros and cons to offering instant booking for your vacation rental property – so let’s take a closer look at some important considerations for hosts.

Why do the platforms encourage Instant Bookings?

If you’re a host on a vacation rental platform like Airbnb, you’ve probably noticed that they’re pushing instant book more and more. There are a few reasons for this, including:

It’s More Profitable: Platforms make money when guests book stays on their site. And, while they used to charge a commission for each booking, they’re now moving towards a subscription model. This means that they make more money when hosts get more bookings – so it’s in their best interest to push instant booking.

It’s More Efficient: Platforms also want to make the booking process as efficient as possible. And, since instant booking eliminates the need for communication between guests and hosts, it’s more efficient than the traditional booking process.

It’s What Guests Want: In addition, platforms know that guests prefer the convenience of instant booking. So, by pushing instant booking, they’re able to give guests what they want – which ultimately leads to more bookings (and more money) for the platform.

So, while platforms may not be explicitly telling hosts to offer instant booking, they’re definitely making it clear that it’s the preferred method of booking. And, in some cases, they may even give preference to listings that offer instant booking.

Can Hosts Set Rules for Instant Bookings?

On Airbnb, absolutely and we highly recommend you set some parameters. There are 5 main areas you can set additional requirement for on the Airbnb platform when setting up Instant Bookings.

  • Identification Requirement: Only allow guests to book who have submitted their government-issued IDs to Airbnb.
  • Host Recommendations: Only take bookings from guests who have traveled on Airbnb and received positive reviews.
  • Pre-booking Form: Make a message with required questions for visitors to answer when making a reservation .
  • Advance Notice:  Set the minimum amount of time that guests must request a reservation in advance.
  • Trip Length: Allow only for reservations that are a certain number of nights or more.

On VRBO, the options are a bit more limited. You can only either enable it or set bookings to a 24 hour review window. We see this as a disadvantage of Instant Booking on VRBO vs Airbnb for hosts.

Keep in mind that if a listing is set to Instant Book, it means that any guest (whether or not they have good reviews, etc) can book the listing without waiting for approval from the host. So, if you’re not comfortable with this, you may want to reconsider offering instant booking on the VRBO platform.

Should You Offer Instant Booking to your Property Listing?

The decision of whether or not to offer instant booking to your vacation rental property is a personal one. And, there’s no right or wrong answer. Ultimately, you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of offering instant booking and decide what’s best for you, your property, and your business.

Some hosts may find that the convenience of instant booking is worth the risk of getting bad guests. Others may prefer the traditional booking process, even if it means losing out on some bookings. And, still, others may find that a hybrid approach (offering instant booking for some listings and using the traditional process for others) is the best option.

How to Add Instant Book to Your Listing

If you choose that you’d like to add Instant Booking to your listings – here’s the instructions on how to do so for Airbnb and Vrbo.

To add Instant Book & requirements for the Airbnb Platform:

  1. Go to your Listings and select a listing
  2. Click Policies and rules
  3. Next to Instant Book, click Edit
  4. Select Instant Book on, and select your guest requirements
  5. Click Save

instant booking pros and cons

On VRBO, hosts have two booking acceptance options available to them: Instant Booking or 24-hour review.   To edit the settings, follow these instructions:

  1. Log in to your account. 
  2. Click on your listing. 
  3. Click Property.    
  4. Click Rules and policies.   
  5. Choose Booking type.  
  6. Then pick either Instant Booking or 24-hour review
  7. Finally, Save

Both platforms will have slightly different options for how to implement Instant Booking. And, again, it’s really up to the host to decide what makes the most sense for their property.

Can Hosts Cancel an Instant Booking reservation?

Yes, both Airbnb and VRBO allow hosts to cancel reservations that were made through Instant Booking. However, hosts must be aware that they can have a negative penalty against their account if they cancel too many reservations.

On Airbnb, a host can only cancel 3 reservations in a calendar year without being penalized. And, on VRBO, hosts are allowed to cancel up to 10% of their total bookings without any penalties. So, if you’re thinking about cancelling an Instant Booking reservation – make sure you’re aware of the policies and penalties for doing so on the platform you’re using.

Can Hosts Decline an Instant Booking?

No, once Instant booking is enabled it will automatically be confirmed (if it meets any requirements that are applicable) and the host can’t do anything to change that.

The only thing a host can do is cancel the reservation after it’s been made – but, as we mentioned above, this can come with some penalties. So, if you’re not sure you want to commit to a reservation, it’s best to either use the traditional booking process or double check that your requirements will weed out guests that you’re not comfortable hosting.

Can Guest Cancel an Instant Booking Reservation?

Yes, guests can cancel their reservation at any time – even if it’s an Instant Booking. However, depending on the cancellation policy that the host has selected, they may be penalized for doing so.

For example, if a guest cancels a reservation with a “Strict” cancellation policy, they may not receive a refund at all. Whereas, if they cancel a reservation with a “Flexible” policy, they may receive a full or partial refund.

It’s important to note that even if a host cancels an Instant Booking reservation, the guest will still receive a refund based on the cancellation policy that was selected. So, if you’re thinking about cancelling an Instant Booking reservation as a guest, make sure you’re aware of the policies and penalties for doing so on the platform you’re using.

Our Recommendations on Instant Booking

If you’re thinking about offering Instant Booking on your vacation rental property, we recommend taking the following steps:

1. Read through the terms and conditions of both Airbnb and VRBO to make sure you understand the penalties for cancelling reservations

2. Set strict requirements for your listing if available so that only guests that meet your criteria can book

3. If you’re still not sure, start with one of your listings and see how it goes. You can always add or remove Instant Booking from your listings as needed.

At a minimum on Airbnb, we require the guest to have their ID verified by Airbnb and to have Host Recommendations. This has helped us many times to be able to prescreen guests that have no reviews on Airbnb or refuse to have their ID verified. In certain instances, we have requested that the guest get verified, and have allowed the booking after they have completed the process. It really is a case by case basis, but having these requirements in place at least helps to minimize the risk.

On VRBO, since they have limited options – we recommend that you select a minimum rental period (especially if your property is in high demand) and set strict cancellation policies.

Offering Instant Booking can be a great way to increase occupancy and make booking your property more convenient for guests. But, it’s important to make sure that you understand the process and penalties before you add it to your listing. By taking these steps, you can help to minimize the risk of Instant Booking and make sure that you’re only renting to guests that meet your criteria.

The Bottom Line

Offering Instant Booking to your vacation rental listing can be a great way to increase bookings and make things more convenient for guests. However, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before making the decision to do so. And, be sure to familiarize yourself with the policies and penalties for cancelling Instant Booking reservations on the platform you’re using.

Do you offer Instant Booking on your vacation rental listing? What have been your experiences? Let us know in the comments below!

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