This year, millions of leisure and business travelers will check-in to a U.S. hotel or motel. In doing so, they will support a travel and tourism industry that employs more than 1.7 million U.S. hotel workers and generates more than $127 billion in annual sales. America’s hospitality industry is not just a vital engine for job growth and sustainment; it is also a critical part of our nation’s economy. Importantly, it is also a valuable partner in protecting our nation’s security.
This week, the Department of Homeland Security, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, LodgeNet, and some of our nation’s largest hotel chains announced a new partnership that will significantly expand the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign.
As part of the partnership we are launching this week, a 15 second PSA will begin airing at more than 5,400 hotels nationwide, appearing on the “Welcome Channel” in nearly 1.2 million hotel rooms in all 50 states. Its message is simple and clear: if you see something that doesn’t look right—an unattended bag or package, a person behaving in a suspicious manner, a vehicle that seems out of place—report it to the authorities.
The “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign, which began in New York City under the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, encourages individuals, communities, and businesses to stay alert and report suspicious activity to state or local law enforcement authorities.
Time and again, we have seen the value of public vigilance in thwarting terrorism and crime, including foiled plots against Times Square in May 2010, an MLK day parade route in Washington state last year, and more recently, the Ft. Hood Army Base. Each of these plots could have ended differently—and tragically—had someone not reported suspicious activity to authorities.
The “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign is another way that DHS and the hospitality industry are working together to keep our nation and economy safe.
The American Hotel & Lodging Association and DHS have been working together over the past year to offer threat briefings to the hospitality industry and create a Web-based training tool for employees.
As part of this collaboration, we have developed and distributed public education materials to help the hotel industry manage security at their facilities and encourage hotel employees to identify and report suspicious activities and threats.
In addition, over the past year, DHS and some of our nation’s largest hotel chains have partnered to expand enrollment in Global Entry, a trusted traveler program that offers low-risk, security-vetted air travelers streamlined processing upon arrival to the United States. Through this program, which is currently available at 20 U.S. airports, average wait times for international travelers have gone down 70 percent, with more than 75 percent of those enrolled in the program passing through customs in under five minutes. Since the program’s inception, several hotel chains have held Global Entry enrollment events to encourage their executives and employees to join, while others have promoted it to corporate clients and members of their loyalty programs.
Finally, because we know that disasters can strike at any time in any place, the Federal Emergency Management Administration has partnered with the hotel and lodging industry to develop a set of PSAs that promote travel safety and disaster assistance for hotel guests. During the devastating spring tornadoes, these videos ran in more than 50,000 hotel rooms, and during Hurricane Irene they reached individuals in over 420,000 hotel rooms.
Through efforts like these, we can engage all sectors of our community, including the millions of guests that stay at hotels each year, in our homeland security efforts. Each of us has a role to play in helping to keep America safe and we thank you for doing your part.
Janet Napolitano is the third Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Joseph A. McInerney, CHA, is president and chief executive officer of AH&LA.