In the 1950s, when Kemmons Wilson revolutionized the roadside motel business by creating the Holiday Inn franchise, he listed a Bible, a fly swatter and a flashlight as the three standard items required in every room. The fly swatters and flashlights are long gone, but most North American Holiday Inns still have Bibles, although the chain gives hoteliers some leeway. Today's worldwide list of mandatory items for the chain's rooms calls only for "the Bible or other religious material where provided."

Also gone are a string of items once dear to hotel guests' hearts. These days, you have to look hard to find a room with a vibrating bed, a Murphy bed, a shower cap, a bottle opener or the paper strip on the toilet seat that reads: "Sanitized for your protection." Even the mini-bar, loved by guests for its convenience but hated for its high prices, is on the way out at some major chains.

But the list of new frills is endless. In a phenomenon dubbed "amenity creep" by the hospitality industry, hotels and motels are locked in an unending struggle to trump the competition with the trendiest toiletries, the niftiest electronic gadgets and the quirkiest freebies. Widescreen high-definition TVs, pricey cosmetics, high-speed Internet, safes, coffee makers and hair dryers are fast becoming the norm. So hotels are increasingly looking for that special something that positions their guest rooms ahead of the crowd.

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