A recent survey by STR, a hospitality analytics company, found that the percentage of American hotels that offer religious materials in rooms has dropped significantly over the last decade, from 95 percent in 2006 to 48 percent this year.
One company that has decided not to accommodate Bibles at at two of its newest millennial-oriented hotel brands, Moxy and Edition hotels, is Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel company.
Explaining that the Moxy and Edition hotels are geared toward fun-loving millennials, Marriott spokeswoman Felicia Farrar McLemore said:
It’s because the religious books don’t fit the personality of the brands.
Marriott’s decision, according to this report, mirrors others in the industry who are quietly phasing out the long-held tradition of stocking religious material in hotel rooms.
Among the reasons for the change, according to industry experts, is a need to appeal to younger American travelers who are less devout than their parents or grandparents and to avoid offending international travelers such as Muslims or Buddhists.
And then there is this practical issue: Many newer hotel brands install shelves rather than nightstands with drawers next to the bed, making it difficult to be discreet about offering a Bible. A copy of the Scriptures on a bedside shelf makes a more pronounced statement than a Bible slipped into a drawer.
Hotels also have been under pressure lately from atheist groups. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which promotes separation of church and state, wrote to 15 major hotel companies last year, asking them to keep Bibles out of hotel rooms.
The group succeeded in the last year in getting hotels operated by Arizona State University and Northern Illinois University to remove all Bibles from their rooms.
The foundation also created a sticker that reads:
Warning: Literal belief in this book may endanger your health and life.
The group has encouraged its supporters to affix the stickers on any hotel room Bible they find.
Said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the group.
We are trying to educate the hotel industry that a quarter of our population is not religious.
STR officials cautioned about reading too much into its survey, noting that managers representing only 2,600 of the more than 8,000 hotels responding to the survey answered the question about religious material in rooms.
Still, industry experts say the changing demographics in America and the surge of international travelers in the US are creating more reasons to keep religious materials out of hotel rooms.
Linchi Kwok, an assistant professor at the Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona, said:
A lot of international hotels are trying to reach a very diverse group of travelers, and religion now has become a really sensitive topic.
Bibles started to become a hotel standard in the late 1800s when three traveling businessmen founded Gideons International with a plan to spread the Gospels by placing the Bible in hotel rooms across the country.
The group now has about 270,000 members in 200 countries. In its latest fiscal year, Gideon International spent about $100 million to distribute Bibles to hotels, prisons, hospitals and other locations, about the same amount as in 2015, according to the group’s financial statements.
Jeff Pack, Gideons International’s director of communications, said he isn’t sure why the STR survey shows a decline in religious material in hotel rooms, considering that the distribution of Bibles by his group hasn’t dropped. He commented:
The decline of religious materials in hotels, as cited in the survey, is reflective of increasing secularism and independence in the world. This has resulted in an erosion of spiritual awareness.
Two years ago, Travelodge hotels in Britain removed Bibles from their rooms “in order not to discriminate against any religion,” the company said. Still, the hotels kept copies at the front desk where guests could borrow them upon request.
The parent company of Travelodge, the Wyndham Hotel Group, said the company does not require Bibles in any of its 15 hotel brands worldwide.
Marriott has opened nine Moxy hotels, with at least 40 more hotels under construction or in the planning phase. Four Edition hotels are open and nine others are set to open in the future.
Intercontinental Hotel Group, the giant British company that operates the Holiday Inn brand, among others, doesn’t require managers of its more than 5,000 hotels in nearly 100 countries to put Bibles in each room.
Spokeswoman Caroline Huston said:
Our hotels have the flexibility to offer religious materials to their guests if they choose to do so.
James McKnight, pastor at the Congregational Church of Christian Fellowship in Los Angeles, said he isn’t offended when he finds his hotel room doesn’t include a Bible. He said that travelers who regularly read the Bible probably already have one with them, either in book or digital form.
I don’t expect the owner of a hotel to have the responsibility to give me the sacred text.