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Instant Book vs. Request-to-Book

These days, many guests are used to ordering stuff online with no human interaction. They expect the same for booking their vacations - they want to be able to just fill out a form, provide their credit card, click OK a few times, and bam! They're booked.

Some property owners want more personal interaction with their guests, though, and do not want to allow Instant Booking. Let's see how you can control the available options to run your business how you want.

Website Options Overview

There are two ways to set up Request to Book situations:

#1 - Set your Book Now widgets to "inquiry only" mode so they don't actually allow a "book now." The guest will send an inquiry and will only be able to book when the owner responds with a quote. This allows you to correspond with the guest and ensure they're qualified first.

#2 - Set the credit card processor to auth-only on booking ("card will not be charged at checkout"). This makes the booking pending until you decide to approve or cancel the guest. You set the credit card option by going to Properties > Select a property > Rules > Pending & Auto Cancellation. Select the choice "card will not be charged". Set the number of days for auto-cancellation and decide if you want to be notified or have the booking automatically expire. Carefully consider your auto-cancellation settings. If the booking has been "placed" but you have not confirmed that it is valid, you probably want it to auto-cancel after a few days. You certainly don't want to be stuck with your calendar blocked by a "booking" that is actually invalid!

Once you've had a chance to review the guest's request, and if you'd like to move forward with the reservation, go to Bookings and open the reservation. You will see options at the top of the screen to "Confirm & Take Payment Now" (at which point the payment will be processed) or "Change Pending Status."

If you choose "Change Pending Status" you have the choice of accepting and charging or making the booking permanent without collecting any charges. To cancel the booking entirely, use the "Cancel Booking" option at the top, right of the screen.

We recommend #1 if at all possible as it works with all payment methods (not just CC's) and is generally a smoother workflow.  However, for some situations #2 is appropriate.

Custom Website

You can create your own website to your own design, and integrate it with the OwnerRez booking engine using our Widgets. One of these is the Book Now / Inquiry Widget.

By default, this Widget supports Book Now.  However, you can switch it to Inquiry Only mode under Settings > Widgets > click on the Booking/Inquiry widget entry you want to edit > Change button.  You'll see the Mode selection at the very top:

Select the option you want, and Save your changes. They'll immediately be enforced wherever you are using the Widget.

OwnerRez Hosted Website

The OwnerRez Hosted Websites, under the covers, use the same Widget code as discussed above. The only difference is that those widgets don't appear in the Widgets settings area; they're controlled in the Hosted Website settings.

A standard Hosted Website will contain two Book Now/Inquiry widgets.  Both of these must have their settings changed in order to enforce Inquiry Only mode.

Go to Settings > Hosted Websites > click on the entry for your website.

Then, in the table of website pages, you'll need to edit two of them: Book Now, and <property name>.

If you have a single-property Hosted Website, there's only the Book Now entry to be altered; there's no <property name>.

In each of the edit screens for these two pages, scroll down and look for the Booking/Inquiry Widget entry.  Click the Change Settings link:

The mode selector is at the very top:

Make your change, then Save changes all the way back out to the Hosted Website screen.

Which Listing Channels Offer Request to Book?

Airbnb requires hosts to offer Instant Book on Airbnb if hosts provide it on other API-connected channels. But how can you tell which listing channels offer a Request to Book (RTB) mode?

When you start your API integration with a listing channel by navigating to Settings > Channels > API Integrations > + Connect a Channel > Credit Card Payments > Mode, OwnerRez clarifies which first-class channel partners do not offer a RTB mode by displaying a disabled RTB radio button with strikethrough text and a tooltip explaining that that listing channel doesn't support RTB upon hover.

First-class Channel Disabled Request to Book (RTB) Mode

Airbnb API

The Airbnb API prefers Instant Booking. It can be configured to be so restrictive on Instant Booking as to be almost as good as Request-to-Book. Here's how to do this.

However, if you really do want Request-to-Book only, our Airbnb API allows it, in your Airbnb API Settings. There is one caveat - you're only allowed to select Request-to-Book as long as you do not allow Instant Booking on any other channel (e.g. Vrbo, Booking.com, Florida Rentals by Owner, and more). Certain booking channels, for example Booking.com, TripAdvisor, and HomeToGo, do not support Request-to-Book.  If you are using API connections with them, they will be in Instant Book mode, because that's all they can do. Therefore, you will not be able to use Request-to-Book with Airbnb. If you do, you'll get a message like this:

You can set individual properties to either Instant Book (IB)  or Request-to-Book (RTB) modes by navigating to Properties > select your specific Property > Listing Content > Channel Rules > Change > Booking Mode.

How does RTB vs. IB modes affect your availability calendar?

  • In RTB mode, OwnerRez blocks your calendar when a reservation request is received to ensure that requests aren't preempted by other requests.
  • In IB mode, OwnerRez does not block your calendar requests (only for actual confirmed reservations) because, in that mode, requests are caused by asking for exceptions to booking rules, so we don't want to block your calendar for that.

Some Airbnb scenarios will convert an Instant Book (IB) listing to a Request to Book (RTB) listing. 

  • If the listing is configured for RTB reservations only.
  • If the listing allows for Request to Book (RTB) requests, the attempt to book the listing must be made within the booking lead time.
  • If the guest attempts to book an IB listing within 48 hours of the check-in time, Airbnb will offer the guest a custom check-in time window. If the guest chooses a custom check-in window that falls outside the listing's defined check-in time, the reservation will be RTB.
  • If the guest does not meet the criteria for guests configured for IB reservations.
  • If a Korean guest books a listing with a strict cancellation policy—excluding listings based in Italy.
  • If Airbnb flags the booking as high risk for parties, in compliance with Airbnb's Party and Events Policy.
  • If the max nights selected for the booking exceeds the max nights permitted for IB reservations.
    • When a seasonal rule is in effect, guests cannot request to book stays longer than the length permitted by the seasonal rule.
  • If the reservation includes children for a property that does not include children, since children are indeed a protected class, they can't be completely restricted from reservations but instead convert to an RTB.

The booking mode setting can only be configured if you are in Everything sync mode. In Limited sync mode, you must set it on the Airbnb side -- the booking mode is not part of the Limited sync permissions.

If you connect a previously RTB listing to API using Limited sync mode, Airbnb will automatically switch it to instant book (as they do for all listings when you first API connect), but because we can't set the booking mode via API in the Limited sync connection, we will not be able to set it back to Request-to-book. Instead, go to the settings on Airbnb and you'll be able to switch it back to Request-to-book there.

Vrbo API

The Vrbo API allows you to put the channel in Request-to-Book mode. To do this, go to Settings > API Interactions > click on the Vrbo entry > click the Change button at the top.  The Mode selection is at the top of the settings screen:

Change the setting as desired, and save your changes.

If the Vrbo API is in Request-to-Book mode, requested bookings will still appear automatically in OwnerRez as Bookings, not Inquiries.  But they'll be placed in Pending mode, waiting for you to either approve or decline them.  If you don't respond, they'll be automatically canceled after a few days.

When an RTB booking is auto-canceled, the cancellation is recorded as "canceled by owner."  This may have negative results on your Vrbo reputation.

Vrbo will send an email to the guest once the Request-to-Book has been submitted into OwnerRez, notifying them that the request has been made, but not any further messages after that.  OwnerRez will then send any automatically configured messages to the guest, or you can manually send them an email - their email address is automatically received from Vrbo and visible in the OwnerRez Booking.

Learn more about Vrbo quotes in the Vrbo Overview support article.

Note: Properties listed using the Vrbo API connection may also automatically also be available to be listed on Expedia and Hotels.com if Instant Book is enabled.  Properties in Request-to-Book mode will not be.

This does not guarantee that your property will actually appear on Expedia and Hotels.com - that is outside of the control of OwnerRez and Vrbo and dependent on their demand in your area and their Expanded Distribution Network needs.

If your property is selected to appear on Expedia, it will be displayed on Expedia with this note:

Expedia Check-in Instructions

You can also set properties individually into Request-to-Book or Instant Book mode, under Properties > pick a property > Channel Rules submenu.

TripAdvisor API

Request-to-Book is not supported by this channel - Instant Book is required.

Booking.com API

Request-to-Book is not supported by this channel - Instant Book is required.

Non-API channels

OwnerRez is not able to control the booking mode of channels or properties which are not connected via API.  You'd need to make these changes on the channel sites themselves.