IBM Social Sentiment Index: This Year Holiday Travel Could Move from Naughty to Nice List

Thu Dec 20, 2012 8:01am EST

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Big data is giving travel industry tools to create offers that match what
customers say they want
ARMONK, N.Y., Dec. 20, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- In spite of the annual holiday crush
of crowded skies and roads and fluctuating airfares, an IBM (NYSE:  IBM)
analysis of  social media sentiment  suggests that Americans are increasingly
optimistic about traveling. In particular, the "Desire Ratio" - the proportion
of positive versus negative comments -- indicates that people are "looking
forward" to holiday travel by a factor of 26 to one. This represents a spike in
positive sentiment nearly 12 times greater in 2012 versus 2011.  

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Measuring public sentiment can help travel industry chief marketing officers
customize incentives and services to be more in tune with what customers are
asking for, using data to tailor their offerings to address fast-moving trends
and real time customer needs.

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. For example, the IBM "Desire Ratio" for flying
indicated that comments are roughly 2.5 times more positive about travel in the
2012 holiday season. This increase could possibly be attributed to the Cyber
Monday deals that airlines ran this year. Positive sentiment associated with
driving also increased 13 percent.

"Measuring social sentiment has the potential to enable the travel industry to
literally design travel offers and services tailored to what travelers are
telling us," said  Raul Arce, vice president, travel & transportation, IBM. "Big
data has the power to transform the travel industry for the airlines, hotels and
other travel providers that can translate customer desires into irresistible
offers that they will welcome."

The IBM Social Sentiment Index combines sophisticated analytics and natural
language processing technologies to gauge consumer public opinions from Twitter,
blogs, message boards and other social media. In this instance, 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.

The volume of conversation about flying as the holidays approach is up 10
percent in comparison to last year (38 percent in 2012 vs. 28 percent in 2011).
This enthusiasm is not limited to those who have confirmed travel plans. A
possible window of opportunity exists for businesses to influence last-minute
customer travel-related decisions. Anecdotally, around one quarter of online
holiday travel conversations suggested that an itinerary had not been finalized.

The analysis also surfaced insight into trends and topics related to flying this
holiday season. 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.

Additional insights from the IBM Social Sentiment Index for holiday travel

* 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 percent year over year.  
* Conversations about the word "travel" during the studied time period increased
75 percent.  
* Measurement of sentiment suggested that fewer people are canceling their plans
for the 2012 holidays with a decrease of 19 percent in negative sentiment this
* The Index recorded a decrease in conversation volume from 2011 to 2012,
possibly attributable to the additional weekend between  Thanksgiving  and
Christmas this year. Early holiday social chatter in December also suggested
people were more focused on holiday preparation than travel plans.

The wealth of online content around travel -- from traveler review sites to
public conversations on Twitter and Facebook -- has become very influential in
how people determine their travel plans. Understanding the positive, neutral and
negative nuances of their conversations and who is influential can help
airlines, hoteliers and other travel service providers market better products
and services to their customers.

About the IBM Social Sentiment Index

The IBM Social Sentiment Index uses advanced analytics and natural language
processing technologies to analyze large volumes of social media data in order
to assess public opinions. The Index can identify and measure positive, negative
and neutral sentiments shared in public forums such as Twitter, blogs, message
boards and other social media, and provide quick insights into consumer
conversations about issues, products and services. Representing a new form of
market research, social sentiment analyses offer organizations new insights that
can help them better understand and respond to consumer trends.  IBM's social
sentiment capabilities are delivered on an  industry-leading big data platform 
that can access, store and analyze any data regardless of how fast it is moving,
what type it is, or where it resides.  

For more information about IBM Social Sentiment Index, please visit  Follow the conversation at #IBMIndex on Twitter.

For more information about IBM and  Smarter Travel, please follow  @IBMTransport
 on Twitter.

Sara Delekta Galligan
IBM Media Relations  

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