Instant booking is when guests can confirm their booking immediately, with no screening and no approval needed. All they have to do is choose the date, agree with your house rules or rental agreement, and their stay is added to your calendar.
On the other hand, requiring guests to make booking requests allows hosts to run screening processes before the stay is officially booked. With booking requests, hosts and guests have an opportunity to communicate before the host confirms that the guest can book their desired stay.
Instant booking and booking requests both come with their own pros and cons. We’ve covered all of the advantages and drawbacks of both options below!
Pros of Instant Booking
We’ll start off by looking at the benefits of enabling instant booking for your guests.
Increased Conversion Rates
First and perhaps most importantly, when you have instant booking, you’re likely to see increased conversion rates. Many guests prefer instant booking, so you’ll end up with more bookings and a fuller calendar overall.
More Convenience for Guests
Think about the process of planning a vacation. Most travelers are used to booking things instantly: their flights, various activities and excursions, a stay in a hotel. Because of this, many people will specifically search for vacation rental properties that allow instant booking. They don’t have to wait for the host to confirm their request or screen them; they immediately know their stay is booked and ready to go. This level of convenience is often preferred.
Can Still Protect Yourself
When you think about instant booking, you might feel hesitant because it doesn’t give you a chance to protect your business and property from potential damage. However, there are still some ways to protect yourself from problematic situations. For example, some hosting sites allow you to restrict certain guests, even when instant booking is enabled. You can typically prevent bookings from guests who have had negative reviews from other hosts in the past.
You can also outline guest screening processes in your house rules or rental agreement, although you won’t go through them until after a guest has booked a stay. Ensure that your screening process doesn’t violate any local discrimination laws. Then, if guests book a stay but break a rule listed in your process, you can simply cancel and give them a refund. Since they’re breaking your clearly-stated rules, there won’t be any repercussions for the cancellation.
Decreased Admin Time
Another upside of instant booking is that it requires less admin work on your end. You won’t waste valuable hours vetting potential guests’ social media accounts, communicating with them through email or phone calls, or running their ID through a third-party identity verification program. Any time you would have spent on these tasks will now be freed up so that you can spend it on other responsibilities.
Preferred by Listing Sites
Many listing sites prefer vacation rental properties that have enabled instant booking. One reason for this is that there’s less risk of discrimination issues when instant booking is enabled. Often, properties with instant booking show up higher in search results than properties that require booking requests.
Never Miss a Booking
When you have a booking request policy in place, there’s always a chance you’ll miss out on bookings due to a delayed response. You’re only human, and it’s nearly impossible to be responsive 24/7. Luckily, with instant booking, there’s no need to be available to respond to potential guests all the time.
Take Advantage of Last-Minute Bookings
Guests aren’t likely to consider properties that require booking requests when they need to book a last-minute stay at a vacation rental. Instead, properties that have enabled instant booking receive all of these last-minute bookings (and the profits that come with them).
Cons of Instant Booking
Even with all of the advantages of instant booking, there are still some downsides to consider.
Decreased Security and Peace of Mind
Since you aren’t screening your guests, there’s less security and peace of mind for you as a host. Screening processes are often put in place so that vacation rental owners have a good idea of who is staying at their property and what their plans are for their stay. Without any screening processes, you might not feel as confident that your guests will treat your vacation rental property with respect.
May Encounter Dishonesty
Unfortunately, there’s no way to know that your guests are who they say they are without screening them. You could encounter dishonesty in a few areas: Guests might lie about their ages, or they might have more people staying at the property than are allowed, for example.
Along with increased bookings comes increased cancellations for hosts that enable instant booking. Conversely, guests that must put in a booking request tend to be more invested in their plans and much less likely to cancel.
Potential Double Bookings
Another downside of instant booking is that you might run into double bookings, especially if you don’t use a Property Management System (PMS). If your calendar isn’t constantly updated, guests might book stays that overlap, and it’s never fun to handle those types of situations as a host.
Guests Might Not Read Your Full Listing
If they can book a stay at your vacation rental instantly, guests might not take the time to read through your entire description. They can miss out on important information and rules regarding your vacation rental.
Pros of Booking Requests
Now that we’ve covered instant booking, let’s get into the upside and downside of booking requests!
Decisions Are Left to Your Discretion
When you have booking requests, you ultimately get to decide who stays at your property and who doesn’t. If you have a gut feeling that a particular guest is going to throw a party or otherwise break your rules, you can simply deny their request. This also gives you more security and peace of mind overall.
Avoid Problematic Guests
When you require booking requests and go through various screening processes, it is much easier to identify and avoid problematic guests and guests who might not get what they want out of your vacation rental.
Fill Your Calendar Strategically
Requiring booking requests enables you to fill your calendar the way you want to. For instance, if you want to schedule guest stays the first half of the month and keep the rental empty so you or a family member can stay there the last half of the month, that’s totally up to you.
Enjoy a More Personal Experience
Going through the screening processes and evaluating booking requests allows you to get to know your guests and have a more personal hosting experience. While this may be a benefit for some, it could also be a drawback for others!
No Competing Calendar Systems
When you require potential guests to submit booking requests, you don’t have to be concerned about competing calendar systems and potential double-bookings from various hosting sites.
Ensure Guests Agree to Rules
Part of your screening process can be to have guests read through and agree to your rules. You can even discuss the rules in an email or phone call to be totally sure guests understand your expectations.
Suitable for New Hosts
Often, booking requests are more suitable for hosts just starting out with their vacation rental business. You want to have positive first experiences in which guests leave you great reviews, and screening for respectful, suitable guests can help you do that.
Cons of Booking Requests
We’ll finish off by covering the drawbacks of requiring booking requests for your guests.
Can Be a Barrier to Guests
The most notable downside of requiring booking requests is that it can be a turnoff to some guests, especially those who want to book a last-minute stay. Many people filter their search results to only include properties that have instant booking enabled, so you’ll miss out on those guests.
Miss Out on Bookings
Since you won’t be able to immediately respond to each and every booking request, it’s likely some will slip through the cracks and end up choosing a competitor instead.
Show Up Lower in Search
Depending on the hosting site, your property may show up lower in search results if instant booking is not enabled.
There are pros and cons to both instant booking and requiring booking requests.
- Some of the pros of instant booking are increased conversion rates, more convenience for guests, decreased admin time, a better position in search results, and the chance to get last-minute bookings.
- A few cons of instant booking are less security and peace of mind, the possibility of running into dishonest guests, increased cancellations, and potential double-bookings.
- The pros of requiring booking requests include the ability to decline requests, avoid problematic guests, and fill your calendar strategically. You’ll also have a more personal experience with no competing calendars, no chance of double-booking, and you can ensure guests agree to your rules.
- The cons of requiring booking requests are getting fewer bookings, potentially missing out on bookings if you don’t respond immediately, and possibly showing up lower in search results.