The following is a guest post.

Maybe it’s the signs that the economy is recovering, or maybe people just really want get away this year—whatever the reason, the travel industry is booming. According to the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, nearly 70 percent of Americans expect to travel this summer, and those travelers planned to spend 17 percent more than they did last year, averaging $1,145 per person. Overall, travel is currently one of the fastest-growing sectors in the U.S. economy. Last year, travelers in the U.S. spent $2 trillion, making up almost 3 percent of the GDP.

This is great news for the travel industry in general, but it is even better news for the niche market of vacation cabin rentals, which are rapidly gaining in popularity as travelers seek space, amenities, and lower prices than are offered by hotels. In 2010 travel guru Arthur Frommer identified vacation rentals in general as “the most pronounced trend in travel,” and cabin owners are uniquely positioned to benefit from this trend.

Let’s look at a few travelers’ characteristics that suggest vacation cabin rentals are on the rise:

  • More people are traveling with children, and those children have a significant influence on travel decisions.
  • Travelers are looking to save money. In fact, room rate is currently the number one consideration with regard to lodging.
  • Travelers like vacation rentals because of their value, privacy, amenities (especially kitchens), and ability to accommodate families and groups.
  • Travelers are looking for a taste of local culture and are eager to visit the country’s natural wonders and historic sites. Cabins can provide these authentic experiences better than standard hotels.

So why are vacation rental cabins still such a niche market? Well, although the people who try them love them, most travelers still don’t know much about them. In fact, the top reason people don’t book vacation rentals is that it simply never occurs to them—the awesomeness of renting a vacation cabin is still one of the travel industry’s best-kept secrets.

But this is changing—the Internet has made it easier for small business owners to compete with large hotel brands, and as a result travelers are becoming more informed. According to last year’s MMGY Global/Harrison Group Portrait of American Travelers, nearly half of leisure travelers are interested in staying in a vacation home rental.

Rental cabins, which are usually off the beaten path, are ideally suited for today’s travelers. Here are just some of their advantages:

  • Staying at a cabin provides the opportunity for vacationers to immerse themselves into local culture, which is the primary goal of more than one-third of travelers.
  • Cabins range in size and can accommodate groups from couples and families to friends traveling together.
  • Cabins provide a unique experience for travelers who want to spend time outdoors but don’t want to camp.
  • Cabins give travelers more intimate access to a region’s top sites and features, especially in areas where standard hotels are not readily available. For example, Cabins at Old Man’s Cave Chalets have many rentals in Hocking Hills, one of Ohio’s premier regions for sightseeing and outdoor activities.

Some cabins still double as vacation homes, but many are now owned and managed as small businesses. For cabin owners, these rental properties provide excellent long-term revenue potential, especially in areas that offer year-round activities—travelers staying in Ohio cabins can hike in the summer, enjoy the foliage in autumn, and ski in the winter.

The ability to advertise and take bookings online is moving the vacation cabin rental niche out of the margins and into the mainstream. More people are searching the Internet for terms related to vacation rentals (more than 80 percent of travelers plan their trips online), and about one-quarter of rental bookings are made online. This market is expected to expand. According to travel research company PhoCusWrite, “The online vacation rental market is emerging rapidly from the nascent stages of static, ‘brochure-ware’ Web site to a hotbed of activity for vacation rental companies.”

If you are looking to capitalize on today’s hottest travel trends outside of room shares and members only hotel sites, now is a great time to get into the vacation cabin rental market.

Photo by Scott Prokop/ShutterStock.