IBM analysis of Twitter, Facebook and other social sites says you’re gonna love holiday travel this year

IBM Social Sentiment Index finds positive outlook to annual holiday travel crush

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Maybe the direction had nowhere to go but up or maybe people really just need to get away regardless of how annoying car and air travel has become.

Whatever the reason, IBM says its Social Sentiment Index, which uses advanced analytics and natural language processing technologies to troll consumer public opinions from Twitter, blogs and other social media found that in spite of the of the annual holiday travel crush people are "looking forward" to holiday travel by a factor of 26 to one.

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IBM says what it calls the "Desire Ratio" - the proportion of positive versus negative comments -- indicates a spike in positive sentiment nearly 12 times greater in 2012 versus 2011. IBM said the Index was used to measure and understand consumer views around the holiday travel season in the United States from the period of December 1 - December 10 in 2012 and 2011.

 According to the IBM Social Sentiment analysis, there was an increase in the volume of positive conversations about flying, driving and spending time with family and friends, among others. This increase could possibly be attributed to the Cyber Monday deals that airlines ran this year. Positive sentiment associated with driving also increased 13%.

Some other interesting travel observation gleaned from this social media analytic study included:

  • The volume of conversation about flying as the holidays approach is up 10% in comparison to last year (38 percent in 2012 vs. 28 percent in 2011).
  • Top of mind for travelers are airline loyalty programs and best ways to convert miles, possible fuel surcharges likely related to the price of fuel, and what to do with pets while on vacation.
  • While it might seem like "noise" that there is a cluster of social conversation around potential travelers and their animals, it could signal an emerging trend - or niche demographic - that pet-friendly hotels or airlines could capitalize on through additional promotional activities or special offers directly tied to the holiday season for pet owners.
  • Negative sentiment related to gas prices is on a downward trend, which will likely contribute to the number of people traveling.
  • While only a small sample size, sentiment around travel providers' mobile experiences such as smartphone apps and websites is on an upward trend. The amount of those conversations increased 40% year over year.

In related good news about travel, the Federal Aviation Administration today said it cleared Santa's sleigh and flight plan for Christmas Eve.

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