In part one of this series, we looked at the pros and cons of instant booking, but now it’s time to look on the other side of the picture when it comes to vacation rental bookings. Presenting part two: the booking requests debate!
What are booking requests?
When guests are ready to book a vacation rental property and the host doesn’t have an instant booking option, they are able to send a booking request to the host which usually will lead guests to make their reservation.
Booking requests allow both hosts and guests alike the opportunity to message one another before the booking payment is processed. Provided the host accepts the guest’s booking request, the guest’s payment method will be charged and the reservation confirmed.
While some hosts love the personal nature of receiving and accepting booking requests manually, others find it a long-winded way to take reservations for their property. Let’s dive in and take a look at the many advantages and disadvantages of using this method.
Pros of booking requests
You get to decide
Many hosts prefer the more traditional method of responding to booking requests purely for the fact that they are the ones who decide who stays (and who doesn’t) in their vacation rental. This can be particularly effective if you know your property isn’t suitable for babies or small children, for example, you can clearly communicate that to the potential guest and kindly decline their request.
While the very nature of the booking request means you are going to vet your potential guests to a certain extent, hosts are reminded that this is not an opportunity for discrimination. Sites like Airbnb have introduced strict nondiscrimination policies to ensure that everyone is given a fair chance at renting a property.
Avoid trouble (or sniff it out in the process)
Though most vacation rental scams tend to come from the hosting side, there are the odd few “guests” who don’t just raise eyebrows, but rather red flags when it comes to booking.
If you only accept reservations by request, you’re in a better position to assess if there’s going to be any trouble from your guest. If their profile or direct email says where they’re from and it’s only 20 minutes away, you need to ask yourself: why do they need to rent a place? Is it because they’re going to throw a party? Take precautions and remember, if something doesn’t feel right about a booking request, it probably isn’t!
Fill your calendar how you want
When each and every booking requires your approval, not only can you choose who visits, but you can also choose when. Let’s say you have multiple inquiries for the same two-week period in your high-season: one for just a weekend, one for a whole week, and one for 10 days. Before accepting any of the bookings, you can calculate the combination that suits you (and your rental income) best, without any annoying length gaps between stays.
Get to know your guests
Booking requests can be a more personal way to inquire about a vacation rental. Not only will the inquirers introduce themselves to host in their initial request, but they also provide hosts with a great chance to ask all the questions they’d like to know about their interested guests in advance of their stay (and vice versa!).
Ensure guests agree to your rules
As part of the deal of getting to know one another before the booking is confirmed, you can be entirely sure that potential guests know about and agree to each and every one of your house rules. The opportunity to present your rental agreement to your guest before they pay for their stay is beneficial to both parties, as everyone knows exactly what is expected of one another.
More suitable for first-timers
Inexperienced hosts might want to stick to booking requests for their first handful of stays as this way, you can be sure you have time to do things right. Your first few guest reviews are super important, and can even make or break a vacation rental reputation.
By ensuring only accepted requests can stay at your home, you’re avoiding any issues that could arise while you’re still getting used to hosting. That means things like key handover, cleaning, or even the dreaded double bookings! Get familiar with hosting first, then decide if you want to move away from booking requests or stick with them.
Cons of booking requests
Some hosts may find that only accepting booking requests is an instant turn-off for guests, ultimately leading them to book elsewhere (and instantly!). When it comes to spur-of-the-moment plans or impulsive decisions to head out of town, guests may not have time to wait around for your responses, questions, and most importantly, booking request acceptance. This could hinder your booking conversion and leave hosts with a low occupancy rate.
You can easily fix this by setting up autoresponders which send out your FAQ answers, or by outsourcing your communication management to virtual assistants in other time zones.
Receiving less bookings goes hand in hand with this point: booking requests might lead to more missed inquiries. If you run your vacation rental alone, it’s impossible to be awake all hours of the day to respond to requests and approve them. But if you don’t do it soon enough, your guests may look (and book) elsewhere.
Unless you put measures in place to avoid missing inquiries, the probability of your guests turning to another host with instant booking is higher.
It’s more difficult to compete with the big names
Hosts with their own websites will have their own marketing strategies in place to capture direct bookings, but if you’re only advertising on platforms like HomeAway and Airbnb, you might not get as much traffic to your listings as your competitors who have activated instant booking.
Booking request listings are generally pushed to the bottom of results, unlike their instant book counterparts. So while it’s great you can review who stays at your home before the booking is completed, it doesn’t count for much if you can’t attract visitors to your listing in the first place.
What’s more, hosts who only accept booking requests will find it more difficult to qualify to be Superhosts on Airbnb, as Superhosts require a response rate of 90% or higher and they need to complete each reservation without cancellation.
So there you have it – all the pros and and cons to using booking requests for your vacation rental. Which do you prefer, booking requests or instant bookings? Let us know in the comments!