Why Do Hotels Have Bibles? A Deep Dive Into An Age-Old Tradition

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Holy Bible in a hotel room

Have you ever scratched your head wondering why do hotels have Bibles in your room bedside drawer? Why is it there? Who put it there? Well, you’re not alone! Most travelers have found themselves pondering over this curious tradition. Gideons International is responsible for placing Bibles in hotel rooms, starting in the early 20th century, as a way to offer comfort to tired travelers.

But why did they start this tradition, and why does it continue today?

I was curious about Bibles in hotel rooms, so I spent six hours researching their history, symbolism, and trends. What started as a simple question led me down a fascinating rabbit hole of hotel traditions that I’m eager to share with you.

In this post, we’ll explore more than the ‘why.’ We’ll talk about Gideon International, how things are changing, and what this means for hotels and guests.

Let’s dive in!

The Gideons International Story

The Beginning of Bibles in Hotels

The tradition of placing Bibles in hotels started in the early 20th century. It was the endeavor of two traveling salesmen, John H. Nicholson and Samuel E. Hill, who had a chance of hotel room sharing due to overcrowding. They decided to form an association for Christian businessmen, which later evolved into Gideons International.

Gideons International and The Bible’s Journey to Hotel Rooms

Gideons International, named after the biblical figure Gideon, began its mission of distributing Bibles in 1908. They began placing Bibles in hotel rooms, with the Superior Hotel in Superior, Montana, being the first to receive a Gideon Bible. Their objective was to make the Bible available to everyone – and what better place to start than hotel rooms?

The Global Spread of Hotel Bibles

Hotels receive these Bibles through Gideons International’s extensive distribution network. Every time a new hotel opens, Gideon volunteers offer the management free Bibles for each room. The practice soon spread globally, with Gideons International distributing Bibles in over 200 countries.

Since its inception, Gideons International has placed over 2 billion Bibles in hotel rooms and other venues around the world, all free of charge. Next time when you see a Bible in your hotel room, remember you are free to take it home, should you feel so led.

The Work of Gideons International Beyond Hotels

The mission of Gideons International extends far beyond hotel rooms. The organization has been known to supply Bibles to the military, hospitals, prisons, and a host of other institutions. Typically, it’s the King James Version of the Bible that finds its way into these various establishments.

Significance of Bibles in Hotel Rooms

A hotel bible on a wooden bedside table.

Purpose Behind Placing Bibles in Hotel Rooms

Despite common misconceptions, placing Bibles in hotel rooms does not promote a specific faith. Rather, its symbolism is universal, aiming to bring peace and comfort to lonely travelers. It doesn’t matter your creed, the offering is there for anyone who finds worth in it.

How Guests Use Hotel Bibles

These Bibles aren’t just an addition to bedside drawers; they offer comfort, inspiration, and spiritual relief to many travelers. Whether it’s a guest seeking solace after a long journey or someone finding unexpected inspiration in its pages, these Bibles have touched countless lives over the years.

Guests use the Bibles in different ways. Some read them out of curiosity, others for comfort, and some to continue their religious practice while traveling.

Influential Stories of Hotel Room Bibles

There are countless stories of individuals who were influenced or comforted by these Bibles, reinforcing the intended purpose. 

Controversies Surrounding Hotel Bibles

Varied Perspectives on Bibles in Hotels

The presence of Bibles in hotel rooms has sparked a debate. While some guests appreciate the availability of Bibles, others question the appropriateness of promoting a specific religious text in a public space. On the one hand, the Bible symbolizes comfort and solace, especially for lonely travelers. On the other hand, in an era defined by diversity and inclusivity, the presence of a single religious text may raise questions about recognizing and respecting all faiths.

The Impact on Hotel’s Reputation

While many see it as a caring and inclusive gesture, others perceive it as an imposition of a particular religious belief, potentially affecting the hotel’s reputation.

Inclusion of Other Religious Texts in Hotels

In recent times, some hotels have started including texts from other religions, aiming for inclusivity.

Future of Bibles in Hotels

A bible on a table in a hotel room.

The Current Shift in Hotel Bible Tradition

Several hotel chains have started to move away from the practice, some replacing physical Bibles with digital versions, and others removing them entirely.

Digitalization and Its Influence on Hotel Bibles

In the digital era, some hotels provide guests with tablets loaded with religious texts, including the Bible, catering to the technological needs of modern travelers.

The Future of Bibles in Hotels: What to Expect?

The hotel industry has evolved to meet the changing needs and expectations of its guests. In response to the debate around providing Bibles, some hotels are broadening their approach. Others are replacing physical Bibles with digital alternatives, offering a range of religious texts to guests.

In 2006, almost every hotel (95 percent) housed a Bible in their bedside drawer. Today, that number has decreased to 79 percent. With societal shifts and the rise of digital technology, the practice of physically placing Bibles in hotel rooms is dwindling. Wi-Fi connections are becoming the new norm, replacing the long-standing tradition of providing Bibles.

FAQ’s on Why Do Hotels Have Bibles?

Where can I find the Bible in a hotel room?

Most hotels have a Bible available in the hotel room drawer, usually found on the nightstand next to the bed.

Are the Bibles in hotel rooms different from regular Bibles?

The Bibles that are found in hotel rooms are usually standard versions of the Bible, consisting of both the Old and New Testaments. Some may be Gideon Bibles, specifically printed by Gideon International for distribution in hotels.

Why do hotels offer Bibles and not other religious materials?

The predominance of Bibles in hotel rooms originated with a Christian organization, Gideon International. They provided millions of Bibles to hotels around the world for free which is why you generally find a copy of the Bible and not other religious texts. However, some hotels may also offer other religious materials upon request.

Does every hotel room have a Bible?

No, not every hotel room has a Bible. While it is common to see bibles in many hotels, especially older or more traditional establishments, it is less common in modern or budget hotels. Some hotel chains, like Marriott Hotels, have stopped keeping Bibles in rooms in all their hotel properties.

Do hotels pay for the Bibles they keep in their rooms?

In most instances, hotels do not pay for the bibles. Organizations like Gideon International supply them for free. The aim is to ensure as many people as possible have access to Christian scriptures during their hotel stay.


From a chance meeting of two Christian salesmen at a hotel in 1899 to over 2 billion Bibles distributed worldwide, the story of hotel Bibles is certainly a remarkable one. Whether you’re a believer or not, the next time you find a Gideon Bible in your hotel room, you’ll appreciate the rich tradition it represents.

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Charvel Rebagay is the founder and main author behind BestHotelsAdvisor.com. With an impressive entrepreneurial background and a genuine passion for travel, Charvel brings a unique perspective to the hospitality industry. He meticulously reviews and recommends hotels, providing readers with an invaluable guide to the best global accommodations.