Religion Today

Rose French, AP, September 18, 2008

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.

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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.

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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.

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