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Issue Date:  April 18, 2008

Forgot to pack your Bhagavad Gita?

At one hotel in Nashville, Tenn., when you feel like a bit of religious reading before bedtime, you’ll have more than a Gideon Bible to choose from.

The Hotel Preston recently started offering a “spiritual menu” to its guests, including the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita or “Song of God,” and additional versions of the Bible.

“Guests are telling us on a regular basis that they’re looking for personalization,” said Howard Jacobs, chief operating officer of Portland, Ore.-based Provenance Hotels. “There’s just a growing interest in travelers wanting to have a customized experience.”

The five boutique hotels in the Provenance chain have introduced the new offerings in the last few months, with the Nashville property starting them in March.

It already has offered other amenities, such as a “pillow menu” that includes soft, medium, firm and hypoallergenic options. At the Preston, guests can also have a pet betta fish or a lava lamp in their room during their stay.

But hotel guests specifically mentioned their interest in a variety of spiritual volumes, said Jacobs, whose other hotels are in Oregon and Washington state.

Researchers for the American Hotel & Lodging Association have found that 95 percent of hotels surveyed provide religious materials in their rooms. That’s up from 79 percent a decade ago.

But the wide variety of sacred texts is a new development, said Joe McInerney, chief executive officer and president of the association and a 47-year industry veteran. “First time I’ve ever heard of it,” he said. “I think it’s a great idea.”

Jacobs said feedback has been mostly positive.

So, what’s the most popular item on the spiritual menu?

“It’s really been across the board, but I’ll say one that’s a heavy favorite is the Four Noble Truths,” Jacobs said of the key Buddhist teachings.

-- Religion News Service

National Catholic Reporter, April 18, 2008

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