NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) 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, including the Book of Mormon.
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.
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.
But since the Gideons began, the religious landscape 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 texts. Many other hotels in the chain offer close to a dozen options.
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 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 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.