How does the Airbnb booking process work?

Get the details about inquiries, requests to book, Instant Book, and more.
By Airbnb on Feb 9, 2021
2 min video
Updated Aug 18, 2022


  • Guests might send booking inquiries if they have questions about your place

  • You can use Instant Book or require manual reservation requests

  • Practicing inclusive hosting is a critical part of being a successful Host

The booking process at Airbnb is designed to be streamlined and straightforward. But as a new Host, you might have some questions about how it works. 

Once you understand the process of receiving and responding to booking inquiries, turning Instant Book on or off, keeping track of reservations, and planning ahead with your calendar, you’ll be ready to welcome your first guests.

Receiving booking inquiries

Some guests may have questions—for example, about an earlier check-in time, or your specific location. These guests can send you a booking inquiry before making a reservation. When you get an inquiry, depending on your settings, you’ll get an email, a notification in your Airbnb inbox, or both.

Even if you use Instant Book, guests may send you a booking inquiry first to get a little more info before they make a reservation. You’ll have 24 hours to respond to their message. Once you’ve addressed their questions, you can send:

  • A pre-approval, which allows guests to book your space within 24 hours without any additional action from you if you have Instant Book turned off
  • A special offer, which lets you offer a discount (often used for longer stays)
  • A decline notification if you can’t accommodate the guest, as long as you’re following our nondiscrimination policy

The booking inquiry screen has three options: pre-approve, special offer, or decline.
If you’re going for Superhost status, you’ll need a 90% response rate (along with other factors), so try to respond to guests within 24 hours.

How guests can book your space

Guests who don’t have any questions can book a stay with Instant Book, if you have it turned on, or with a reservation request, if you have Instant Book turned off. 

  • Instant Book is the default booking option for all listings. If you use this, guests who meet all your requirements and agree to your house rules will be able to instantly book your space for any available dates. Instant Book also signals you’re willing to host anyone who fits your booking criteria, an important part of being an inclusive Host.
  • Reservation requests give you 24 hours to review and accept or decline each booking request submitted. You’ll be able to access guests’ reviews and profiles. Some Hosts, especially those with unique spaces or inconsistent schedules, prefer manual booking requests.
When you receive a reservation request, scroll down to access a guest’s profile and recent reviews.
We try to respond as fast as we can and try to accept as many requests as we can. It’s a foolproof way of upping your rankings in search.
Superhosts Danielle and Eli,
Tannersville, New York

Keeping your calendar up to date

You can adjust your price and settings to meet local demand for different times of the year. A few quick calendar tips:

  • Block specific dates when you know you won’t be able to host
  • Set a minimum and maximum length of a stay
  • If you have other online calendars, sync your Airbnb calendar with them to make sure you’re always aware of upcoming bookings

Get more details about calendar and booking settings

Once you understand how guests can book your space and what their booking experience is like, you’ll be ready to focus on the fun part of hosting: welcoming your guests.

Information contained in this article may have changed since publication.

Feb 9, 2021
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