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. (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20090416/IBMLOGO ) 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.