People love instant gratification.
And one of the biggest problems with many airbnb listings is that you just can’t have. Waiting for a guest to respond and approve your request is less than optimal, especially when the guest could easily go over to orbitz.com and book a hotel on the spot.
So you can see why, Airbnb wants you to turn on Insta-Book.
But is insta-book worth it? And what is insta book you may ask?
If there is a little lightning bolt next to the price, then you can book instantly. My listing below, and the one next to it, both have insta-book enabled. See the lighting bolt?
Using Insta-book can be a blessing and a curse. I liked using it because as long as I told AirBnB to only approve guests with one positive review, I never had a bad experience from an insta-book stay.
Also, it was a bit less work for me. Guests found a date they liked, and booked it, all without my involvement. As long as my calendar was up to date, that was usually ok.
Lastly, the biggest pro, and the reason I still have it on, is that it lets me stand out in my market and get more bookings. Ultimately, my profit rate is higher with insta-book on versus off. So despite some inconveniences, it ends up being worth it for me. For the experienced operators out there, I suggest you try it and see how it impacts your bottom line.
If you are just starting out, I definitely don’t recommend it turning on insta-book. Your first few guests are very important, and since you aren’t experienced you may not know exactly how to handle guests, you are probably not quite ready for it yet.
If you are more experienced, you may already know how to handle guests, and you would have blocked off certain dates that you don’t want anyway to book. You really need to stay on top of your calendar, otherwise a date you “meant to block” becomes booked without your involvement. And if you have to cancel it, it leaves a black mark on your account that you really don’t want.
The other bigger con for me was that guests booked dates convenient for them, which may not be the best for my calendar and my bottom line revenue.
Sometimes they would leave a gap of one or two days in between stays, which can be the kiss of death for your occupancy rate, if you get a lot of those since they are hard to fill. There really isn’t much you can do about this, except hope that those dates get picked up last minute by dropping those prices dynamically.
Airbnb definitely wants you to turn it on, and if you ever turn it off, they will really want to know why. In my experience, I definitely did get more bookings. But, I had way less control over who booked and for how long.
How to reduce your risk when using Insta-Book
The host (you in this case) can set certain guidelines such as at least one positive review for instance, or a certain number of days in advance. In competitive markets, most listings may have insta book turned on so you may have to do it to stay competitive.
To reduce your risk, I would definitely recommend you reserve it for people with a positive review, and at least 3 days in advance. I know for my cleaners who are quite busy, getting them to come on short notice is sometimes very difficult. Your situation may be different, so adjust accordingly.
My results of using Insta Book
In Feb of this year, I ended getting 6 bookings for the month, requiring 5 turnovers in ONE month (including the guest checking out on Feb 1). That is 5 cleanings with a 93% occupancy rate. My cleaners were really happy at $150 a pop that month.
My Feb 2015 Calendar Above – Guests made me happy by filling in almost all the dates, even the 2 day gaps!
But in March, Insta Book Kinda Screwed me. My occupancy rate dropped by 12% and so did my revenue. Check out the March Calendar:
My March Calendar with way too much unbooked space for my preference
I had 6 open days, for an ~81% Occupancy rate. That one 3 day booking from the 15th-18th, with two days on either side, basically cost me $1000. Would I have approved that manually if insta-book was turned off? Probably not.
So, I would recommend considering setting a longer min stay, if you are going to do insta book. Regardless, this requires careful monitoring to make sure it can work for you.
In conclusion, insta-book may or may not work for you. It also may depend on your market. So now that you know the pros and cons, you can decide if you want to give it a shot!
UPDATE – May 7 2017 – Airbnb Instabook search filter
The article above is still largely correct, however Airbnb recently made some changes in the way people see results when they search for properties. And it is a very major change. I’m afraid that for those not comfortable with insta-book, you may have to reconsider your feelings because if Airbnb keeps this feature up, it is going get very hard to fill your listing moving forward.
What is the change?
Somewhat recently, Airbnb started showing a big pop-up message the first time you search for a property. Here is what now is displayed:
Before showing you any of the search results, Airbnb now displays this message. It sounds pretty innocent, and I think most Airbnb users, who stay at Airbnb only occasionally, will probably click this button. The working is a bit deceptive, of course I want to get listings I can book instantly! What users don’t realize though that if they click this they will miss on many properties. What the button really should say is “Yes I want to limit my results and have fewer options”, which most people would probably not click. I have to say this is pretty effective language.
They also have a new slider above search results, that lets you toggle on and off this filter. It will remember your choice, which it seems AIrbnb is highly encouraging.
Impact to owners and hosts of Airbnb’s New insta-book Search Results Filter
As it stands now, this change seriously impacts my recommendation for Insta-book. Prior to this I recommended it to some people, but I thought it wasn’t right for every host. But this changes things. I expect a major drop in revenue and occupancy rates for hosts that do not enable insta book.
Through highly encouraging wording and the instabook search filter pop-up, I would now expect the majority of users to enable this filter when searching for properties. Which means that if you don’t have insta-book enabled, your traffic is going to drop for sure. By how much, I can’t say yet because it is too new, but I would except losing at least 50% of your monthly views. I am tempted to turn off insta-book on one of my listings for a week just to see what happens.
Regardless, my new updated insta-book advice to new hosts is this: Turn on insta-book if at all possible. For those experienced hosts who currently do not have it turned on, I would advise you cautiously watch your traffic (Property views) and occupancy trends. If you start to notice a big decline, then you may have to turn it on. They are forcing everyone’s hand in this, and I get why. It is clearly a better experience for guests. Nearly every guest loves insta-book, and would prefer to book properties instantly instead of waiting. And ultimately, that is why Airbnb has made this change, like it or not.
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