Instant Book is a polarizing feature of Airbnb that allows travelers to book a listing instantly without hosts needing to approve the booking. By the same token, hosts lose the ability to decline bookings though they can always cancel the booking later and the consequences of doing so, if any.
Instant Book is the fastest way to book, for guests and hosts and Airbnb touts it as a means of reducing discrimination against guests of certain ethnicities. In November 2022, Airbnb announced an update to its Instant Book feature that will allow an additional five million additional guests to take advantage of the feature.
There are two ways to make a reservation on Airbnb: Request to Book and Instant Book.
Request to Book requires the intervention of the host. Basically, a guest makes a request to book a listing and the host has 24 hours to accept the booking. They can also decline. If left unanswered, the booking expires. Instant Book doesn’t require host intervention and the booking is confirmed instantly.
When a traveler finds the listing they want to book on Airbnb that is available on the dates they want to book, they can book and have their booking confirmed instantly if the listing has Instant Book enabled. The guest and the host receive an email from Airbnb confirming the reservation.
By enabling Instant Book, hosts can increase their bookings because guests can book their listing immediately without waiting for host approval. This means that hosts who enable Instant Book are more likely to receive bookings from last minute travelers and other guests looking to book immediately. According to AirDNA, Instant Book listings are booked at an average of 30.2% in urban markets and over 157% in destination markets.
Airbnb rewards hosts who enable Instant Book with higher search rankings increasing the exposure and conversion rates of their listings.
Enabling Instant Book increases the visibility of a listing by making it appear higher on search as well as for those travelers looking for Instant Book enabled listings alone. This can lead to more bookings, higher occupancy rates, and increased revenue.
Because Instant Book eliminates the request-to-book process, it also removes the back and forth guest communication requirements of the host with regard to following up and accepting the booking, making it more convenient for hosts.
By eliminating the reservation inquiry stage of the guest journey, Instant Book automatically improves a host’s response rate which Airbnb rewards with higher search rankings.
Airbnb requires hosts to maintain a minimum 90 percent response rate if they are looking to become or remain a Superhost. Instant Book’s positive impact on a host’s response rates improves their chances of doing so.
According to The Daily Egg, users spend an average of 59 seconds on booking websites. By automating the booking process, hosts can provide a better customer experience and increase their booking frequency.
According to AirDNA, hosts who have Instant Book enabled earn 52% more than those who do not.
Instant Book can be a great way for new Airbnb hosts to get bookings and reap reviews, easier and faster.
By eliminating the host’s booking approval process, Instant Book increases the risk of bad guests booking your listing.
Enabling Instant Book means that hosts have limited control over who stays in their property. They cannot decline bookings or screen potential guests before they arrive.
Instant Book increases the risk of last-minute cancellations, no-shows, and damage to the property.
Hosts who have Instant Book enabled are more likely to cancel on their guests if they discover guests are not planning to abide by house rules, etc.
While one night stays can be useful to fill in gap days in your booking calendar, most hosts are looking for guests who stay longer even if they are not open to long term stays.
There are a number of strategies that Airbnb hosts can take to reduce the risks associated with enabling Instant Book and maximize the positive impact of the feature. Here is how to make Instant Book work for you.
One of the best strategies to reduce the risks associated with Instant Book is to set specific requirements for guests. Hosts can require guests to have a certain number of positive reviews, a verified ID, a specific length of time as an Airbnb member, or limit the maximum number of guests before they can use Instant Book for their listing. These requirements will help to ensure that guests who use Instant Book are more likely to be trustworthy.
By enabling a stricter cancellation policy, hosts can mitigate their risks of last minute cancellations or at least get paid in full if it does occur.
Asking guests to pay a security deposit deters them from causing property damage.
Getting guests to sign a rental agreement not only acts as a deterrent to bad guests but also gives you legal protection and places legal liability upon them in case of damaging or criminal behavior.
Ensure you are communicating with your guests from the time they’ve booked your Airbnb property. While guests are expected to have agreed to your house rules when they book, not all guests would have actually gone through it in detail. By answering their queries and communicating your boundaries, you can ensure guests enter your vacation rental knowing what is allowed and what is not.
Creating a welcome guide for guests can help hosts ensure that guests understand the rules and expectations for their stay. The guide should include information about the property, the neighborhood, and any specific rules that guests need to follow. By providing guests with clear guidelines, hosts can reduce the risk of damage to the property or other issues.
Airbnb hosts can switch Instant Book on and off at any time. When Instant Book is enabled, it applies to all available dates in your booking calendar.
Airbnb guests must agree to each listing’s house rules before booking through Instant Book. And while hosts cancel the reservation if they find out guests are planning to break their rules, there could still be some penalties.
Hosts can mitigate the risks of the Instant Book feature by customizing Instant Book settings. However, Instant Book must be enabled for hosts to change the settings.
Hosts can require guests to complete Airbnb’s trust identity verification process. This may require them to provide their legal name, address, and/or other personal information; a government ID; or even a selfie.
Hosts can require guests to have a minimum number of good reviews.
Hosts can require guests to have completed at least one stay.
Hosts can create a preset message with questions that guests have to answer when booking.
Hosts can set a maximum number of guests limit.
There are other Airbnb settings that hosts can use to create a more positive Instant Book experience for themselves. These include:
Hosts can avoid last minute bookings that leave them no time to prepare for their guests by configuring their advance notice settings. These include:
Hosts can adjust their minimum and maximum night policy to ensure guests can automatically book long stays or too-short stays.