Instant Booking - What's your take?
We're doing some research and want to hear from PMs who have made the switch from inquiry-based booking to instant booking. In general, it would be meaningful to hear your perspective. Below are some specific questions;
- How has Instant Booking changed your operations?
- Have you seen a noticeable revenue changes?
- What stressors are associated with instant booking for you?
- What advantages are associated with instant booking for you?
- Do you use Instant Booking for all channels, or just the required ones?
We're really looking forward to your feedback and perspective! If you are not on Instant Booking and have questions or comments as well, we welcome you to join in.
Please forgive that I don't quite meet the stated qualifications for the PM's requested in the initial question. I am instead speaking as a single property owner with a larger property that caters primarily to groups upwards of 17 - 20 or so. That said, maybe it stands to reason I am not a fan of "instant bookings".
Over the years, I have found most cancellations to be associated with the instant booking scenario where I did not get to communicate with the guest and answer all of their questions prior to booking. My goal is always to make sure the guest is right for our villa and the other way around as well! When this doesn't happen before the booking I find there is a higher chance of a cancellation happening.
Just my experience!
@Darrell-Looney112 Thanks for contributing! Would you mind sharing which channels you tried Instant Booking on?
This was on the Homeaway channel when we were doing it full steam, as well as directly on MYVR when we first got started with the site. I disabled that feature early on.
I think the main reason there were issues stemmed from the fact that travelers don't bother to read all of the details before clicking the "Book Now" button. Sites tend to like "Book Now" because it equates to revenue activity. The problem with that perspective is it is not what a "Vacation Rental" is all about.
Whether it's a shared personal space or an exclusive villa rental, it's all about the personally curated experience for the guest. There has to be that interaction between guest and owner to ensure the experience is what is desired and is as advertised before booking happens. Cutting that piece out with an instant booking button is simply a recipe for something less than success.
There is also the issue of the chance for a "double booking" happening, something which I am quite "paranoid" about. Since I have only the one property, maybe it's easier for me but I enjoy the organization tools on MYVR and it works well for me to keep everything at hand manually. Even with volume picking up like it has over the past 6 months I feel on top of all my bookings and that I have a handle on what each of my guests want to make their vacation awesome!
I have instant booking on AirBnB and just added it to my VRBO account so I could get more exposure on their partner sites. It irks me I have to have IB to get exposure for a service I pay for, but that's another topic. I do not have IB turned on for my MyVR website.
I only have one property so it's kind of easy for me to manage. What I don't like that makes me nervous is the frequency of syncing from/to MyVR, VRBO and AirBnB. If I get an IB from either of the listing sites, then I'm furiously trying to get the reservation confirmed in MyVR reservation manager and then I manually sync to all my linked calendar services. And then hope that VRBO or AirBnB will update my respective online calendar quickly.
I do not want to become integrated with MyVR at this time as that's just more money out of my pocket for the additional commissions and loss of direct control over my two listing sites. If I had more than one rental, then that would probably make sense.
So for IB, meh, it's OK. It's a game with the listing sites that I have chosen to play and it's not hurting or helping as far as I can tell yet. Plus, I still get to interact with the guests before they show up. And I also, so far, have not found the scammer people to use IB since they can't have their 'company' send a check for payment.
I have instant booking with my integrated VRBO listing. My non-scientific feedback is this:
15 years in the VR industry. Because I started with properties in a advance planning fly to destination I had a non-refunds policy - it was clear and I also suggested trip insurance on my correspondance.
15 years = 3 cancellations (grandmother passed away, someone had a health issue ....)
12 months with instant booking = 8 cancellations
Still the same policy & correspondance ...
4 of the 8 have lost either 50% or all of the amount paid
2 remain to be seen - they have final payments comining up - we will see if they make them - I have turned off "autocollect" and if they don't pay then I will open their dates 10 days after there final payment is due. But their first payment is forfeited.
1 was cancelled within 24 hours of booking (that one I am ok with - they realized they did not read the rules & finally did read them after booking & decided we would not work for their party they were planning)
1 was cancelled within a week of booking after exhaustive arguments about my legal right to ask for their photo ID and my requirement that their credit card and photo ID match the person who is booking. By right I suppose I could keep their money after they cancelled - but then VRBO customer service got them to agree to provide ID (it's in my contract and its also a requirement of our City of Chicago VR licensing that we maintain guest details like name & address for 3 years ... ). By this time I did not want these people in my property.
My take? As others have said: People don't read, they just click and book and believe they have a right to cancel when they feel like it. The personal relationship & human communication is slowly being chipped away with tools like istant booking.
@Carole and @Darrell-Looney112 - you both had similar input about travelers not reading the details prior to booking which is definitely compelling. In my personal experience, it only takes one accidental booking as a traveler to realize you really need to read all the details before you confirm your purchase. I imagine that behavior may change over time, especially with short term rentals rising in popularity.
I know we have a lot of PMs who like instant booking, and I'm holding out to get their input as well
@Jess-Milligan - I believe this is where there will be a distinction. Since I'm not a PM I cannot speak for them but as a property owner handling all bookings for myself, there is a preference for interaction with the potential guest prior to booking. I would actually rather someone who would not like/prefer my place to not book as opposed to having them book and hope to convert them into "our kind of guest". We're not on the water. We don't allow smoking inside the villa or pets on the property. If these are important issues to a guest I'd rather they book a stay in a more conducive environment for their relaxation pleasure.
I do also want to mention that I do not believe instant booking to be a completely "bad" thing and I do get some from Homeaway still (often a pleasant welcome surprise - kind of like ending up on the first page of a Google search organically). I guess it's a quality assurance issue for me. How can I under promise and over deliver if I never have the interaction first? I think that's something most owners will want. Would like to hear the PM perspective as well.
@Jess-Milligan I think that there is inherintly a difference in the comfort levels of owner/managers and general property managers. Owners, whether they are managing only their own property(ies) or their own plus neighbors', have a vested interest that traditional property management companies do not.