In ho­tel night­stands, new sa­cred texts

The Covington News - - Religion - By Rose French

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Leave your Bha­gavad- Gita at home while trav­el­ing out of town?

If you’re stay­ing at the Ho­tel Pre­ston, you can get a copy of the an­cient Hindu text for your room from a “ spir­i­tual menu” that in­cludes the Quran, the Bi­ble and other re­li­gious texts.

Prove­nance Ho­tels, which owns Nashville’s Ho­tel Pre­ston and four other bou­tique ho­tels, is part of a new trend in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try: ap­peal­ing to vis­i­tors from a wide va­ri­ety of cul­tural and re­li­gious back­grounds by go­ing be­yond tuck­ing a Gideon Bi­ble in gue­stroom night­stands.

“ One of the emerg­ing things we started to hear on a reg­u­lar ba­sis from guests was a need for spir­i­tual of­fer­ings other than just the Bi­ble,” said Howard Ja­cobs, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer for Prove­nance Ho­tels based in Ore­gon. “ In all of our cities there’s a grow­ing in­ter­na­tional draw. Within the U. S., there’s so many peo­ple from other coun­tries com­ing to work here or for leisure travel.”

The over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of ho­tels of­fer re­li­gious ma­te­ri­als in their gue­strooms, ac­cord­ing to a 2008 sur­vey by the Amer­i­can Ho­tel & Lodg­ing As­so­ci­a­tion. Re­searchers didn’t ask what texts were pro­vided, but the best known is the Gideon Bi­ble.

The Gideons In­ter­na­tional, a non­de­nom­i­na­tional evan­gel­i­cal min­istry run by busi­ness­men, be­gan the prac­tice of leav­ing Bi­bles in ho­tel rooms a cen­tury ago.

Its early founders and mem­bers were trav­el­ing sales­men who “ wanted spir­i­tual nur­ture them­selves and to help oth­ers who de­sired the same,” said Mark Noll, an ex­pert in re­li­gious his­tory at the Uni­ver­sity of Notre Dame.

“ They were aware of temp­ta­tions to im­moral be­hav­ior on the road and they thought the Bi­ble would be a good coun­ter­weight to that,” Noll said.

But since the Gideons be­gan, the re­li­gious land- scape of the U. S. has trans­formed, mainly due to a 1965 change in im­mi­gra­tion rules that had pre­vi­ously fa­vored north­ern Euro­peans.

While the U. S. pop­u­la­tion to­day re­mains over­whelm­ingly Chris­tian, many other faiths, in­clud­ing Is­lam, Hin­duism and Bud­dhism, have a sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence in the coun­try. And a fast- glob­al­iz­ing econ­omy has cre­ated new Amer­i­can links with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

Bor­gata Ho­tel Casino & Spa in At­lantic City, N. J., which opened in 2003, of­fers the Bi­ble and sev­eral other re­li­gious works in its lobby.

Niki Leon­dakis, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer with Kimp­ton Ho­tels and Restau­rants based in San Fran­cisco, said the chain’s 42 bou­tique ho­tels be­gan to of­fer a range of spir­i­tual texts in ad­di­tion to the Bi­ble nearly a year ago. Ev­ery ho­tel has at least four spir­i­tual texts: the Old and New Tes­ta­ments, the He­brew Bi­ble, the Book of Mor­mon, and Bud­dhist text. Many other ho­tels in the chain of­fer close to a dozen op­tions.

Leon­dakis said the ho­tels have re­ceived only a few re­quests for the books so far. Still, she said that, “ of­fer­ing a menu that in­cludes as many philoso­phies and be­liefs and spir­i­tual per­spec­tives was much more in keep­ing with the cul­ture of our com­pany.”

At Ho­tel Pre­ston, among the other books of­fered are the Book of Mor­mon, Bud­dhist texts, the Chi­nese Tao Te Ching and the He­brew Bi­ble. Guests can choose from the works on a lam­i­nated “ menu” in their rooms and then call the front desk to re­quest a copy.

The con­cept of di­ver­sity is not en­tirely new. The Mar­riott ho­tel chain, which was founded by Mor­mon busi­ness­men, many years ago be­gan of­fer­ing the Book of Mor­mon in ad­di­tion to the Gideon Bi­ble. How­ever, few other ho­tel chains of­fered any broader choices in the U. S. be­fore now.

The Gideons, who rarely speak to re­porters about their work, did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment. Noll said that the trend of of­fer­ing more re­li­gious texts in ho­tels “ sounds to me like a trib­ute to the Gideons.”

The Gideon Bi­ble still has a place of promi­nence in at least one of Prove­nance’s ho­tels — Ho­tel Pre­ston in Nashville, the home of Gideons In­ter­na­tional, and offices of sev­eral ma­jor Chris­tian groups, in­clud­ing the South­ern Bap­tist Con­ven­tion and the United Methodist Church.

“ It was im­por­tant here ... to have that of­fer­ing in ev­ery room, but we also of­fer the spir­i­tual menu,” Ja­cobs said. “ Gideon still is re­ally the an­chor text across all ho­tels.”

On the Net:

Prove­nance Ho­tels: http:// www.prove­nance­ho­tels.com/

Gideons In­ter­na­tional: http:// www. gideons. org

Kimp­ton Ho­tels & Restau­rants: http:// www. kimp­ton­ho­tels. com/

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