Instant Book is no joke. It’s one of the primary tools that Airbnb is using to compete with the gigantic online travel agencies, like Booking.com.
Instant book transforms your listing into a more hotel-like option for guests in terms of the booking process. If you’re a host looking to maximize your profit, this is a key feature you should be paying attention to.
What is Instant Book?
Years ago, before Instant Book (“IB”), guests had to correspond back and forth with a host until a booking was accepted. Hosts had a strict 24-hour limit to respond to a guest inquiry before the request expired. Depending on time-zones, it could have taken days to complete a booking.
With IB, all of the hassles of correspondence before booking has been eliminated.
Instant Book has streamlined the booking process for guests and hosts alike. It allows potential guests to choose and book the Airbnb listing they want with just one-click. As a guest, you don’t need to provide a bunch of details about your trip and cross your fingers hoping to be accepted. As a host, you save a ton of time by not needing to screen every single guest.
These days, you can tell that a listing is “Instant Bookable” by either a lightning bolt icon visible on the listing or by the wording of the booking button. On the listing page, if the booking button reads “Book” the listing is Instant Book. If it reads “Request to Book,” then it is not.
Why You Should Be Using Instant Book.
Over 70% of Airbnb listings are Instant Book. By many estimates, using the Instant Book feature can double your bookings, leading to double the revenue, and double those coveted reviews.
There are three major reasons Instant Book has become so important:
- External Competition
- Internal Competition
- Search Placement
1. External Competition:
When you’re hosting on Airbnb, you’re not just competing with other hosts for Airbnb travelers. You’re competing with every place those travelers could stay and every system those travelers could go about booking accommodations.
Many travelers want to be able to book your rooms just like they do a hostel or hotel, so using IB will allow them to do that. Implementing Instant Book on your listing will eliminate some of the issues that guests used to have when comparing the booking process of Airbnbs to the simple process of booking hotel rooms.
2. Internal Competition:
Beyond the external competition, almost all hosts who are what we consider “property managers” or “professional hosts” are using the Instant Book option. If you are a normal host, renting out an extra room or a second home you don’t use all the time, you will want to consider using it just to compete with the pros. If all things are equal, such as the quality of your photos, guests are going to select whichever listing is easiest to book.
3. Search Placement:
Once you activate the feature, there is a major immediate benefit. Airbnb is going to place your listings in the search results above other listings. We won’t hop into this too much because we have a more detailed post on improving your search ranking. But the gist is, IB listings get booked faster because they are easier to book. Since Airbnb wants to make money too, they are incentivized to present IB listings first.
Things to watch out for
Nothing in life is perfect. Some things in life are awesome, like winning ten grand at the casino. But, even that comes with taxes. Here are some things to look out for with Instant Book.
Last Minute Bookings
If you are renting out rooms in a home you actually live in, last-minute instant bookings can be like a surprise house guest showing up. You can control this a bit by adjusting your calendar settings and disabling same-day-bookings.
If you’re OK with same day bookings, you’ll need to make sure that if you have a room listed as available, that that room is actually available and ready. Can you count on your room or home being clean enough to accept a guest on short notice?
If you are renting out spaces and are implementing instant book to its full capacity, you need to be able to check-in people quickly, whether you live there or not. Some of these bookings can come in pretty last minute or with a couple days notice.
Consider using a lock-box or other type of self-check-in service if you feel you won’t always be able to check them in person. Or, have a back-up plan, like a friend or family member who can let your guests in.
The last thing you want is someone to instant book your room, and not realize that it isn’t what they expected until it’s too late. People who book instantly may not be reading through the descriptions of the listings as thoroughly as they should. Your bookers may overlook important things about your listing, like the awesome french bulldog you have on the property.
If there is something that guests need to know; such as, there is a cat that lives in the house, check-out is at 7am, or that the house is only accessible by boat, make sure that information is listed first and is in your house rules. It might make sense to send them a note about it after they book to confirm that they are aware.
Can Anyone Book Using Instant Book?
Almost any guest can use Instant Book, but there are some caveats.
The guest has to meet Airbnb’s basic requirements, which includes having a confirmed phone number, email address, and payment information. They also have to agree to the house rules before finishing the booking process, so make sure the important information about your listing is in them.
There are some additional requirements you can set for a guest to be able to book your listing. For example, you could require that the guest have a government ID that has been verified. You could also require that the guest has positive reviews from other hosts, making sure none of your guests are first-timers.
What About Cancellations?
We always encourage hosts to cancel as little as possible. There is a ton that you can do on your listing settings to remove much of the need to cancel. For example, you can:
- Control the number of days notice you want on instant bookings
- Limit how long of a stay someone is allowed to book instantly
- Control the verifications that a guest must have in order to book instantly
If you need to cancel, you can do so penalty-free if you feel uncomfortable about a booking or if a guest breaks a house rule. Even a Superhost can cancel 3 instant bookings in their lifetime and not lose their status.
If a guest needs to cancel, they can also cancel the reservation without penalty with enough notice. Just make sure that the information about the listings is readily available and very clearly written so that there is no confusion for your potential guests.