Booking requests have become increasingly popular for hosts renting out their properties on vacation rental platforms. With a booking request, instead of instantly booking a property, prospective guests send a request. The host then has the flexibility to accept or decline the request. This system provides more control and freedom for property managers to be selective about bookings and is often used by luxury property managers. However, it also introduces additional complexity compared to instant bookings. 

Request to Book was previously most commonly found on specialist luxury channels, but in the last few years major OTA’s have taken note of its potential for luxury properties. Airbnb, and Vrbo all now offer Request to Book as an option, and the results are clear: we have already seen some of our highest-value bookings made through these channels (in just the first two months of 2024 we had already secured bookings of over €300,000 through Airbnb and over €240,000 through Vrbo). Luxury property managers listing on these channels have huge potential to earn high value bookings.

Read on for more info on how Request to Book works, and to explore the key advantages and potential drawbacks of using booking requests.

Booking Requests, Explained

When making a booking request, a potential guest sends an inquiry to the host asking about availability before completing a reservation. They pick their desired dates and submit a request through the platform’s booking system.

The host then receives this request and can approve or decline it. If approved,  the reservation is confirmed. If declined, the guest will have to search for alternate accommodations.

Once a booking request is made for specific dates, a hold is placed on the property calendar for those dates until the host acts on the request. The dates remain unavailable for instant booking by other guests until the original request is addressed. The time hosts have to respond to the request varies between platforms, but is usually 24 hours. If they haven’t responded to the request in that time, it is automatically declined.

In a nutshell, booking requests add a layer between initial guest interest and confirmed bookings, allowing property managers to retain the right to reject bookings requests if they choose to. 

What channels offer Request to Book?

Request to Book is essential for luxury property managers who frequently don’t have exclusivity over their portfolio, necessitating that they discuss bookings with the property owner before accepting or rejecting them. They also often receive a significant amount of private or direct bookings, meaning their calendar on channels might not always be up to date.

Because of this, luxury channels typically offer Request to Book. Check out the top luxury channels here.

However, Request to Book is not unique to luxury channels. Top OTA’s are now recognising the importance of offering a Request to Book option, with Airbnb, Vrbo, and all introducing Booking Requests in the last few years.

Find more tips on marketing luxury properties here.

Booking Requests and OTA’s

Luxury property managers who need to review booking requests before accepting or declining were previously unable to list their properties on major OTA’s because they didn’t offer Request to Book. But now that the major OTA’s have introduced Booking Requests, should luxury property managers be taking note?

The short answer is yes. Why? The two highest value luxury bookings made through Rentals United this year to date were made through OTA’s (€324,000 through Airbnb and €242,000 through Vrbo respectively). And it’s not just us picking up on this trend. The well-respected Sirreti Report, using Key Data, reported that in 2023, all 10 of the highest value luxury bookings studied globally were made through an OTA.

What does this mean for luxury property managers? The data is clear: the highest value luxury bookings are being made on OTA’s. And with Request to Book now available on these same OTA’s, there’s nothing stopping luxury property managers from benefiting from the huge exposure of these major channels, using them to boost their high-value bookings.

7 Benefits of Accepting Booking Requests

There are some of the major benefits that come with using a Request to Book system, rather than Instant Book. Let’s dive into them:

1. More Control Over Your Calendar

The main appeal of booking requests is the increased control it provides hosts over their rental calendar. With instant bookings, the host loses control over a certain period once a guest books a certain date.

However, with requests, hosts can carefully evaluate each inquiry and choose whether or not to accept based on factors like:

  • Pricing – Hosts may receive requests at suboptimal rates during high-demand periods. A request system allows hosts to hold out for more profitable bookings.
  • Guest profile – On some channels, hosts can screen potential guests and decline ones deemed unsuitable or high-risk based on profile information.
  • Double bookings – Hosts can avoid accidentally accepting overlapping requests from different guests for the same period. This is especially relevant for property managers who accept private or direct bookings as well as bookings through channels.
  • Alternative bookings – If hosts feel they may get a better opportunity, they can decline a decent request in favor of waiting for the ideal booking.
  • OTA’s – Property managers can list their properties on major OTA’s like Airbnb, Vrbo, and which offer a Request to Book option, accessing the exposed reach of these platforms without compromising the exclusivity of more luxury properties.

By selectively approving requests, hosts optimize rental rates and avoid problematic guests.

2. Chance to Review Guests

Direct guest communication with prospective guests who have submitted a booking request is not available on all channels. However, even when it isn’t, prospective guests typically provide additional details upfront when submitting the request, such as:

  • Purpose of stay
  • Number and profile of guests
  • Specific needs and requests

This communication lets hosts know the guests before approving the reservation, and they can use this information to decide if the guests are a good fit for their property. They can also review guests’ reviews from previous hosts. 

On channels where direct guest communication is available, property managers are also able to message prospective guests directly,  asking follow-up questions to vet guests and understand expectations. The increased back-and-forth also enables them to evaluate compatibility, screen for red flags, and gather details to deliver better customer service. Additionally, it can lead to higher-quality bookings from informed guests who are serious about their trip. 

3. Control Over Length of Stay

Hosts can specify minimum and maximum nights for online instant bookings. However, for some listings, this may be restrictive.

With booking requests, hosts can consider each guest’s needs and be more flexible with stay requirements. This allows capturing bookings that may fall outside preset length of stay rules.

4. Avoid Double Bookings

The booking request system safeguards against accidentally accepting overlapping reservations from different guests for the same period. Since requested dates are temporarily blocked until addressed, it reduces the risk of double bookings resulting from instant reservations made around the same time.

This is especially helpful for properties who accept direct or private bookings outside of the channels they list on, meaning their availability on channels might not always be completely up to date, or they might have two booking requests coming in simultaneously – one private and one through a booking channel.

5. Updates Guests on Availability

During high season, rental calendars can fill up quickly. With a booking request system, guests are updated on availability before being able to complete reservations. This avoids having guests go through the booking process only to find dates unavailable at checkout. It makes a smoother, more transparent booking experience.


7 Drawbacks of Booking Requests

A booking request system also has its potential downside that hosts should be aware of.

1. Introduces Uncertainty

Perhaps the biggest drawback of booking requests is that it leaves both hosts and guests in limbo until a confirmation decision is made. This uncertainty and waiting can frustrate guests eager to book a property.

Because of this, it is essential that property managers respond to booking requests quickly. On most channels, if a request hasn’t been responded to within 24 hours, it is automatically rejected. However, ideally property managers should respond to requests within hours of receiving them to reduce the uncertainty for guests.

2. Requires Hands-On Management

Tracking requests, responding promptly, updating calendars, negotiating rates, and screening guests takes active effort, especially during peak seasons. This hands-on workload can be challenging for hosts with multiple properties. 

3. May Lose Bookings

Each declined booking request is a lost rental opportunity. While hosts want to optimize rates, being overly selective risks turning away too many prospective guests. This could lower overall bookings.

4. Less Guest Convenience

From the guest’s perspective, requests are less convenient than instant bookings. There is uncertainty until approval, requiring them to wait on the host’s response before booking. As hosts become more selective, declining requests also become more likely.

Best Practices for Managing Booking Requests

If hosts want to leverage the benefits of requests while minimizing drawbacks, here are some tips:

  • Set Expectations Upfront. Hosts should be transparent about their booking process and policies in their listing descriptions. This sets clear guest expectations about the use of booking requests.
  • Share Response Times. Provide expected response times so guests know when they can expect to hear back on a request. One-day turnaround is typical, but this may vary.
  • Block Time for Follow-Ups. Designate time slots to monitor and respond to new requests at least once a day, if not more frequently, during peak season.
  • Update Calendars Frequently. Update availability calendars across all connected platforms to avoid double bookings.
  • Monitor Cancellations. If a confirmed booking from an accepted request is canceled, remember to open up those dates again across all calendars.
  • Outsource if Needed. Hire a property manager to handle requests and calendar management, especially during busy periods.

Is a Booking Request System Right for Your Rental?

While booking requests provide hosts with more control, they do add complexity. Evaluate whether the flexibility outweighs the additional management to determine if requests are the right fit:

Booking Requests May Be Better For:

  • Owners with multiple properties
  • Property Managers renting out unique, high-demand properties
  • Property Managers who want to screen all potential guests carefully
  • Owners with complex calendar coordination needs

Instant Booking May Be Preferable For:

  • Casual hosts renting out just one property
  • Hosts who prioritize convenience and guest satisfaction
  • New hosts building up reviews and credibility
  • Hosts managing listings with very high availability

The right approach also depends on factors like:

  • Property type – Instant booking works better for standardized properties like condos. Unique, high-end properties benefit more from tailored requests.
  • Market conditions – In high-demand markets with scarce supply, requests allow for selectivity. In oversaturated areas, instant booking may secure more bookings.
  • Target guest segment – Request screening helps avoid issues with parties or high-risk guests. For families or business travelers, instant booking provides more convenience.
  • Seasonality – During peak seasons, requests allow rate optimization. During off-seasons, instant booking can fill vacancies.

Take the time to evaluate your specific needs and situation to determine whether accepting booking requests would benefit you. This may vary across different properties in your portfolio.


As with everything, using on-request Booking for your properties has both benefits and drawbacks you should consider. The increased flexibility and selectivity from requests can maximize revenue through higher rates and avoid problems. However, this comes at the cost of additional hands-on management.

Carefully evaluating your property profile, market conditions, and hosting capacity is important in determining if a request system is right for your needs. Best practices, like prompt communication and calendar diligence, can help smooth the process. With the right approach, booking requests can be a valuable channel for securing more profitable bookings, opening up the possibility of listing on major OTA’s and specialist channels alike to earn those high-value bookings.

Frequently Asked Questions

How quickly should I respond to booking requests?

Aim to respond within 24 hours, and as few as 2 – 4 wherever possible. During peak seasons, faster response times are better to secure bookings and provide good customer service.

What details should I request from prospective guests?

Ask for the lead guest’s name, group size, trip purpose, ages of children, pets, and any other needs to assess compatibility with your property.

What if I accept a request accidentally and want to cancel?

Immediately communicate this to the guest, apologize for the inconvenience, and explain why you must retract the approval. Offer to find alternate options for them.

How do I politely decline requests when I’m unable to host?

Reply promptly by thanking them for the request, offering your regrets that you cannot accommodate them, and suggesting nearby rentals that may meet their needs.