Thinking about our recent road trip through Atlantic Canada, I can’t help but reflect on the fact that the radio has vanished from hotel and BnB (Bed & Breakfast) accommodations. This really hit home with me when we entered our room at The Great George on Prince Edward Island. Not since my days as general manager of beautiful music WFPG-FM in Atlantic City have I entered a hotel room to hear instrumental easy listening music playing, but that’s how the management of The Great George want it be for the next guests when they arrive.
WiFi Replaces Radios
The music we heard upon entering our room however, wasn’t coming from a radio station, but from a music channel streaming through our large flat screen TV.
Wireless internet is the must have lodging feature we find everywhere we travel. It’s always available throughout each property and I always connect our iPhones and my MacBook Air before we even unpack a single bag.
The other thing I’ve noticed is that the radio on the night stand by the bed has been replaced by a charging station with a clock in it.
In Montreal, our room at the Hôtel William Gray featured a Bang & Olufsen Bluetooth speaker that easily connected to my iPhone. The fidelity of B&O audio equipment is legendary and it was a joy to be able to connect any of my audio Apps on my phone during our stay.
Phone Books & Bibles
Radios aren’t the only item disappearing from hotel rooms, it’s getting harder to find both phone books and Bibles.
I know that when it comes to phone books, most people these days take them from their mailbox or hanging off their front door and immediately place them into their trash or recycling bin. So, having them disappear from hotel rooms doesn’t come as a surprise.
But those Bibles placed by the Gideons have been ubiquitous for as long as I can remember. In 2006, 95% of hotel rooms had a Bible in them and the most recent study I could find from 2017 said that number is down to less than 69%.
It was in 1908 that The Gideons International decided to place Bibles in hotel rooms. The idea was born when two traveling salesmen were forced to share a room in a crowded hotel in Wisconsin. They discovered their shared faith and decided to start an association of Christian traveling businessmen that would place Bibles in every hotel room in America.
Radio & Hotel Rooms
Commercial radio broadcasting was born in 1920 and it was only seven years later that the first radio set appeared in a hotel room.
Ellsworth Milton Statler is considered the father of the modern hotel building his first permanent hotel in 1907 in Buffalo, New York featuring a private bath or shower and running water in every room. By the mid-1920s he grew his hotel company into the largest in the United States owned by a single individual. E. M.’s slogan for his hotel business was “The customer is always right.”
In 1927, E. M. would open his last hotel, the Boston Park Plaza, and once again it would offer something no other hotel did, a radio headset in each of its 1,300 rooms.
On March 20, 1951 the radio show, Cavalcade of America sponsored by DuPont, featured the story of E. M. Statler in a thirty minute drama.
What Would E. M. Do?
If E. M. Statler were alive today, I’m sure he would have been leading the hotel industry with free, fast WiFi in every room. After all, if you want to stay in business you have to give the customer what they want.
Even Gideons International now has an App, which offers mobile access to Scripture with the popular features for reading and listening to God’s Word.
It’s just one more reason that the future of audio, including radio, is via a smartphone or other WiFi connected device.
Imagine how much better radio today might sound if broadcasters operated with the philosophy of E. M. Statler.
9 responses to “Where Are the Radios?”
One of those ubiquitous items that you one day realize is gone. The last incarnation of the hotel room Radio, might have been the Ipod/IPhone docking station, but they didn’t last very long. Honestly, I’d rather have some nice AC or USB outlets by the bed for charging. I always have my little Bluetooth speaker in my travel electronics bag, and with a good WiFi signal, my entire music collection is available via Amazon Cloud Storage.
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We sometimes bring our Bluetooth speaker along with us for the same reason. I bought it for Sue when she works at H & R Block every Q1 to use. It helps calm people during tax season to hear quiet soothing music playing when they come into the office.
Also, we love a room with a strong WiFi signal and great air conditioning.
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Very nice article…well researched.
Give them what they want…
smaller markets are pretty good at doing that…
Hi school sports,
Announcing funeral notices,
Open forum programs,
Keeping it local.
We give them what they need and what they want.
Sometimes we don’t know what they need
until they know.
Broadcasters need to be good listeners too.
Thank you again Dick… Well written.
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As I always told my radio classes, be like Mayor Ed Koch, ask everyone you meet, “How am I doing?” And then listen to what they say.
You can’t know what people want, if you don’t ask them.
Thank You for taking the time to read and add your thoughts to today’s blog article Paul. There’s no doubt that locally owned radio stations are doing the best job of serving their audiences.
I, too, have noticed the absence of radios (also phone books and Gideon Bibles) from hotel rooms; but it isn’t just hotels — it’s even my home, and I’m a lifelong radio listener!
Outside my car, I haven’t used an actual radio receiver since May of this year, when I was recovering from open-heart surgery and staying much closer to strong Memphis signals. (That’s an issue for another time — band-congestion reducing range of favorite stations.) I still have my CC Radio, but don’t use it except in emergencies. I listen on my Amazon Echos, four of them spread throughout my home.
I have my own Bibles, and since I no longer have a landline phone I don’t get phone books. I will NOT own a car without AM, FM and satellite radio — had a radio-less car once, regretted it, had an aftermarket unit installed.
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Thank You for sharing your story Walter.
We also have Amazon Echos throughout our house. I have a radio in every room of our home, some rooms have more than one; about 15 radios that actively work and they are all tune to the same frequency. The frequency my Whole House FM Transmitter broadcasts on. That little transmitter is connected to one of my Amazon Echos and whatever we ask that to play can be heard in every room, as well as in our backyard. Music as a nice level, with nothing blasting to be heard.
I know some people accomplish this with a SONOS home sound system, but when you own as many radios as I do, why not put them to good use.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Hope you are recovering well from your surgery.
i live in the Hudson valley area of New York State and i don’t know if this will go along with the story but here goes, back in the 1930’s /1940’s there was a hotel which is now gone called the Nelson House in Poughkeepsie NY where they had Coin Operated radios in The rooms ,when they were beginning to dismantle the hotel and demolish it , my brother knew someone who was working on the project and he was able to grab one of the radios to this day my nephew now has it in his collection, the radio Did work, i don’t know if it still would, it was neat though , you dropped a nickel in the coin slot in the top of the radio , waited for it to warm up and there you have it,, its a very cool piece of history
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Thanks for sharing Jeff. I’ve actually never seen a coin operated radio, but I’ve had others telling stories about them, along with coin operated beds that would vibrate.
I was going to try and list all the entertainment media that has gone by the wayside (player pianos, 78RPM “Albums” – and more) but the fact is, “progress” will eclipse older less used sources. The radio receiver in the hotel room, for example – was usually a pretty poor device. AM didn’t work unless you were next door to a transmitter site, and the FM sections of those receivers was pretty awful. Internet technology is limited by accessibility. If the radio waves that brought us AM/FM are ever widespread enough (and free) to bring us the internet, we’ll probably see today’s single use transmission facilities bulldozed into apartments, luxury homes or business parks. We know AM/FM still has an audience on the road. For now. Unless broadcasters get it together, we’ll see what’s happened in those hotel rooms (and in your home). Or, AM/FM will become the piano rolls of the 21st century.