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Nov 28 2017
Hosting Tips

Airbnb Instant Book: Everything You Need To Know

If you're an Airbnb host you've probably already come across the Instant Book feature. Unsure of whether or not you should be using it? Perhaps this will help. Below we'll look at everything you need to know about Airbnb Instant Book, from what it is, to the pros and cons, to how to adjust the settings of your own listing.

What is the Airbnb Instant Book feature?

"Instant Book listings don't require approval from the host before they can be booked," says Airbnb. In other words, there's no manual approval process: guests can just book in without you, as the host, having to do anything. How does this work in practical terms? When a guest wants to book a property that has Instant Book switched on, they simply select their dates of travel and number of guests and click on "Book". Airbnb instant book If Instant Book is not switched on the guest selects their dates and number of guests and clicks on the button which instead says "Request to Book". Request to book Airbnb instant book In both cases they will next need to fill in details of their trip (like whether it's for business, if they're bringing a pet, and their reason for travel) and accept the house rules, but in the second situation they'll only be billed if the host manually accepts their booking.

What are the benefits of allowing Airbnb Instant Book?

If you're a host, there are a number of benefits to switching on the Instant Book feature. 1. More bookings. First and foremost, Instant Book leads to more bookings. Guests who are in a hurry don't want to wait around for a response and prefer to use Instant Book. Guests using mobile devices or travelling with limited internet will also be happier to go for the one-click instant book to save time and fuss. From a guest perspective, Instant Book is simply easier. Which means they're more likely to book with you if you have it. 2.  More earnings.  More bookings means more earnings. We hardly need to explain that one further. 3. Better search ranking. When it comes to showing up higher in the Airbnb search results it helps to have Instant Book switched on. Airbnb preferences properties that do. 4. Show up in filtered searches. Similarly, users can filter results by Instant Book properties only. That means if you don't have it switched on, your property won't show up in their results at all.  What's more, Airbnb encourages guests to use this filter. Have a look at this dialogue box that might pop up when you go to the Airbnb search page: airbnb instant book filter message As you can see, the Instant Book filter is turned on by default, with the message notifying you that it's your choice to turn it off. 5. Help you become a Superhost. If you're craving that Superhost badge, Instant Book makes it easier to achieve. Your response rate will be higher, you're get more bookings and therefore more reviews. 6. Save you time. If you have a dedicated property management service time might not be a huge issue, but otherwise turning on Instant Book means you don't have to manually respond to requests — thus saving you time and hassle.

What are the risks of allowing Airbnb Instant Book? 

Now, you've probably already figured out that all those benefits don't come without some downsides, or at least a few risks. Let's take a look: 1. Lack of screening. When Instant Book is turned off, you can personally and manually vet every guest who wants to book your property. If you're super cautious about letting strangers into your place, letting them instantly book is probably not for you. When guests have to make a request first, it allows you time to check out their profile and reviews and ask them any questions you want to ask. 2. Hasty bookings. Sometimes guests are in a hurry to book in some accommodation, so they find something that looks good, quickly skim over the listing without reading it thoroughly, and hit the "Book" button. What does this mean for the host? That there's potential for mistakes and misunderstandings. Perhaps the guest ends up having to cancel a few days later when they realize your house rules don't suit them, for example, which means your property has needlessly been off the market during that time. 3. Calendar syncing issues. No host likes having to cancel on their guests, but occasionally this can happen if you've ended up with a double booking. Airbnb's Instant Book gives you no opportunity to double check your calendar and make sure your dates are all in order before you accept a booking. If you list your property on multiple platforms, you must ensure your calendars are all syncing correctly in order to avoid this potential problem.

How to mitigate the risks when using Instant Book.

Despite having a few potential downsides, there are measures you can take to still use Airbnb Instant Book with minimal risk. Firstly, Instant Book isn't just an on-or-off feature. There are also settings which help you to control which guests can book without first sending a request. If you're wary about using Instant Book, start by setting the tightest controls. This would mean only allowing guests who have a verified Government-issued ID and positive reviews from other hosts. You can also set how much advance notice you need before a booking — the minimum being same day and maximum being at least 7 days — so if you don't want to be sprung with a last-minute instant booking, you don't have to. When it comes to screening of guests, you can also cancel instant bookings without penalty (i.e no fees and no loss of Superhost status) if the guest seems suspicious (though note Airbnb only allows you to do this up to three times). Having an up-to-date, well-synced and accurate calendar, and setting up your Instant Book to take advantage of the aforementioned options will help to mitigate risks of using the feature.

How to turn on Airbnb Instant Book.

If you already have your Airbnb listing set up, you can turn Instant Book on or off very easily:
  1. Go to Manage Listings on Airbnb.
  2. On the listing you want to edit, click Manage Listing
  3. Above your listing's photo, click Bookings settings
  4. Under Who can book instantly? make a selection for which guests can reserve your listing using Instant Book
That's it!

So is Airbnb Instant Book right for you?

So is Airbnb Instant Book for you? That depends. Now you know the pros and cons and what makes the feature tick, it's up to you to decide. If you're driven by profit and wanting to get maximum occupancy rates, it's definitely in your interest to switch on Instant Book. You'll want to show up in as many search results as possible, and make it easy for people to commit to your property with a single click. If you're more about occasionally accepting well-vetted people into your home and are happy to be low-key on the occupancy rates, then you might be just as happy to leave it switched off. And if you're still unsure, you can always test it, tweak it, and find what works best for you. Do you use Airbnb Instant Book? We'd love to know about your experience in the comments below.
Tania Braukamper
Tania is a talented writer and photographer who covers a wide range of topics at airhosta. @taniabraukamper
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