Instant Book is a booking setting that lets guests who meet your requirements automatically book your space. If you enable the Instant Book setting, guests do not require your approval before they’re able to book a stay at your place.
Airbnb’s Instant Book feature was introduced to replicate the ease, speed and seamlessness of booking a hotel room. Airbnb therefore frequently prioritize Instant Book listings to prospective guests.
Since by default many hosts have a natural preference for actively vetting the guests that stay in their homes, Airbnb needed to ensure that hosts saw the value in utilizing the feature to win them on-board. Instant Book provides the following benefits to Airbnb hosts:
- Convenience: Allows you to book guests without needing to respond to each request
- More guest interest: Guests can filter to search only for Instant Book listings. Instant Book listings are more popular with guests since they’re able to more seamlessly plan their trip
- Earn more reviews: More bookings equals more opportunities to get reviewed. And more reviews equals increased credibility and value
- Search placement: Airbnb give priority placement to Instant Book listings in search results. It also positively affects your response rate, which will also improve your listing’s placement in search results
- Gaining Superhost Status: Instant Book can help you reach Superhost status by maintaining a high response rate – one of the requirements for becoming an Airbnb Superhost
- Reduced management costs: Your time is money. Instant Book significantly reduces the amount of time you need to invest in communicating with guests prior to bookings, translating into increased profitability for you
Before being able to use Instant Book, Airbnb require the following from every guest looking to utilize the feature:
- Confirmed email address
- Confirmed phone number
- Profile photo
- Explanation of trip purpose
- Number of people on trip
- Agreement to house rules
- Payment information
You have the option of adding additional requirements, which include also requiring guests to have provided Airbnb with a government-issued ID and/or endorsements from other Airbnb hosts.
To activate Instant Book:
- Login to Airbnb
- In Hosting mode, select Listings from the top menu
- Click on your listing
- Click on Booking settings from your listing's menu
- Click the Edit button for the How guests can book section
- Select Guests who meet all your requirements can book instantly. Others will need to send a reservation request
- Click Save
Instant Book will apply to all available dates on your calendar.
Once Instant Book has been activated, you’ll see the Instant Book lightning bolt icon on your Listings page:
Despite all of its benefits, Instant Book is not without its risks or complications. It is also not always advisable for hosts with limited experience on Airbnb. Before deciding to activate Instant Book, ensure that you understand the risks involved and follow simple steps to mitigate those risks.
The most effective strategy for mitigating the risks associated with Instant Book is simply communicating as much information about your listing and expectations upfront through a detailed listing that eliminates surprises for any prospective guests.
If you decide to activate Instant Book, monitor your profitability and time investment both before and after having activated it. Ensure that the feature helps, not hinders, your investments in Airbnb; and make decisions around its continued use accordingly.
The following are some of the risks associated with the Instant Book feature and recommendations for mitigating them.
Risks and Key Considerations
RISK: Since the Instant Book feature entails automating many of the interactions, communications and processes that would otherwise take place between a host and guest, newer hosts risk making mistakes through the automation of processes and communications that would otherwise be happening in person. They will also miss out on a number of key learnings that will be useful for their ongoing Airbnb education.
RECOMMENDATION: Not for newbies. If new to Airbnb or still trying to learn the ropes, save use of the Instant Book feature till a time that you’ve familiarized yourself with the ins-and-outs of the Airbnb booking and hosting processes.
RISK: Since reservations are automated, they rely on an up-to-date and accurate calendar. Some hosts list their property on multiple vacation rental sites. These hosts don’t necessarily automatically sync their Airbnb calendars, or may not have updated their calendars to reflect their property’s true availability. When oversights or calendar syncing mistakes are made, Instant Book may result in the need to cancel reservations you realize you’re unable to accommodate.
RECOMMENDATION: Maintain an up-to-date calendar. Ensure that you sync your Airbnb calendar with all other vacation rental websites you list on. Update your Airbnb calendar to reflect your true availability, including blocking out any dates that your place is unavailable.
Impacts to Occupancy Rate
RISK: Activating Instant Book inevitably means losing a degree of control over your calendar and the bookings you strategically choose to accept or decline to optimize your occupancy rates. Guests have the ability to make reservations that may create undesirable gaps to your calendar and which prove difficult to fill. All of this negatively impacts your occupancy rate.
RECOMMENDATION: Increase your minimum stay requirement. Increasing your minimum stay requirement will ensure that potential guests don’t have the ability to meaningfully disrupt your occupancy rate or profitability with a standalone short stay reservation that prevents other longer and more profitable reservations from taking place.
Concerns about Instant Book Guests
RISK: With the ability for guests to use the Instant Book feature to book a stay at your place without pre-approval, hosts lose the ability to screen out potentially undesirable guests they would otherwise not accept to host.
RECOMMENDATION: Cancelling reservations without penalty. Hosts who use Instant Book can cancel up to 3 times penalty-free if they have concerns with a guest’s behavior before or during their trip. These cancellations are valid only for reservations that were booked through Instant Book (they do not include calendar inaccuracy, confusion about pricing or availability, or extenuating circumstances).