Have you ever wondered why there was a Bible in the bedside drawer of many hotel rooms around the world? I always thought it was humorous since hotels are notorious for being a hotbed of sin but I never really thought about why until a couple of weeks ago when I arrived in Las Vegas, Nevada for work. In the past I always accepted that there was a Bible in the bedside drawer of every hotel room I’ve ever been to, but I never pondered why a Bible is among the many amenities that hotels provide worldwide.
It all started in 1898 when John H. Nicholson and Samuel E. Hill arrived at a hotel in Boscobel, Wisconsin. The hotel was very crowded and only had one double room left for the two businessmen to share. Even though they didn’t know each other, John and Samuel decided, what the heck, it’s only for a night. While bunking with one another, the traveling salesmen realized that they had one thing in common: Christianity. They bonded over their common faith and they talked into the night, toying around with the idea of starting an organization for traveling Christian businessmen. That is when Gideon International, also known as the Christian Commercial Travelers Association, was born.
As the group grew over the next few years, they thought about how they could fulfill their Christian duties and spread the word while on the road. Since many of them spent time working in hotels and traveling, they decided to start distributing Bibles to hotels. The Bibles would not only be for fellow Gideons, but also for people who sought the word and needed wisdom from the Good Book. The first hotel to start the tradition was the Superior Hotel in Superior, Montana in 1908. Since then, the group has distributed more than 1.7 billion Bibles to more 190 countries around the world.
Since many Gideons are businessmen, they have a bunch of interesting marketing statistics out there to evaluate the effectiveness of their program. Through research they have determined that 25% of hotel guests will read the Bible left in the bedside drawer. They have also determined that each book has a life expectancy of 6 years and they replace these books once they are worn out or are taken. The bibles are also free to the hotels as the program is funded 100% by donations made to the Gideons.
But what about other religious texts? Take a look at the Marriott chain. Beecause they are Mormon owned, every hotel room comes with a Book of Mormon. Other hotel chains also offer guests the Koran, the Chinese Tao Te Ching, the Hebrew Bible, Buddhist literature and even books on Scientology.