retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

There was a line in Michael's column this morning - "growing distrust of many societal pillars including the government, corporations, the news media and even organized religion" - that made me think about an Eye-Opening story I read in the Los Angeles Times the other day.

The story said that "a recent survey by STR, a hospitality analytics company, found that the percentage of hotels that offer religious materials in rooms has dropped significantly over the last decade, from 95% of hotels in 2006 to 48% this year.

"Among the reasons for the change, according to industry experts, is a need to appeal to younger American travelers who are less devout than their parents or grandparents and to avoid offending international travelers such as Muslims or Buddhists."

This shouldn't be a surprise. The Pew Research Center has reported that "the Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups."

This demographic shift can be seen even in how Marriott International - a company founded by a devout Mormon - is operating. The company recently decided to keep Bibles and a Book of Mormon out of two new hotel brands, Moxy and Edition, that are geared to younger, less traditional travelers.

Personally, I don't have a big problem either way. I may be a former altar boy, but I'm not what anyone would describe as being religious or spiritual. It never has bothered me when I find a religious book in hotel rooms, and I never even notice when they're not there. (Though I may be looking in the future, just out of curiosity.)

I actually have a bigger problem with organizations like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, described in the Times story as "a nonprofit group that promotes separation of church and state," which not only has lobbied hotels not to put religious books in rooms, but also has encouraged supporters to put stickers on such books that say, "Warning: Literal belief in this book may endanger your health and life." This strikes me as offensive and just looking for a fight; there is a big difference between having one's own beliefs and not respecting the beliefs of others. (That goes for parties on both sides of this discussion, by the way.) Me, I'm pretty much in favor of whatever gets you through the night ... as long as it doesn't infringe on anyone else's freedoms.

But I digress.

The shifting attitudes toward something that became common practice back in the late 1800s offer us just another signpost on a demographic road that is curving in unexpected directions. And, as I say, an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: