The Real Reason Hotels Have Bibles — and Why That's Changing
If Rocky Raccoon were to check into his room today, there’s a lesser chance that he would find Gideon’s Bible.
Bibles are disappearing from hotel drawers around the country, according to a survey from STR, a hospitality analytics company.
Over the past decade, about 15 percent of hotels have stopped providing in-room religious materials. In 2006, almost every single hotel (95 percent) put a Bible in their bedside drawer. Today that number is only 79 percent.
Most major hotel franchises allow individual hotel owners to decide whether or not to stock their drawers with religious scripture. And as more hotel chains aim to attract Millennial travelers, they are taking Bibles out of their rooms.
When Marriott opened its new Moxy and Edition hotels, they decided they wouldn’t put religious books in the room because the “books don’t fit the personality of the brands,” a spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times.
Millennials are the least religious generation in American history. They’re also one of the most highly-targeted marketing demographics. And although ditching hotel Bibles may seem like a youthful move, the concept of the in-drawer Bible is actually only about a century old.
Gideon International — the group responsible for distributing Gideon’s Bibles — was only formed in 1899 (when two Christian salesmen ended up sharing a hotel room). And it wasn’t until 1908 that they began providing hotels with Bibles. Whenever new hotels would open in town, a member of the organization would meet with the managers and present them with a free copy of the Bible. They would then offer to furnish every room of the hotel with a copy.
By the 1920s, the name Gideon had become synonymous with the free Bible distribution. Other religious groups, like the Mormons, began offering hotels their own religious literature to compete in the nightstand drawer. Some hotels began stocking the texts of multiple religions.
Now there’s a new, Millennial-focused amenity that comes standard: about 98 percent of hotels now offer in-room Wi-Fi. So those that miss the bedside Bible can now instead browse a digital version of whichever scripture they prefer.