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There can be a bit of confusion about hotel ratings. What makes a 5 star luxury hotel? Who defines it as such? What are diamond ratings exactly? The truth is many hotels use the terms to promote themselves as better than others, but there are different criteria for legitimate rating systems that most countries covet.
A popular guide to luxury hotels is the Michelin Guide, one of the oldest guides in Europe. Gaining stars in the Michelin Guides is very coveted through Europe, and more recently in the United States.
The Leading Hotels of the World organization features hotels that “cater to the discriminating few, where first class service is a norm rather than an exception.” They feature small luxury hotels, resort hotels as well as world-renowned stately hotels. Though it is a membership organization, there is a stringent application process. Incognito inspectors have a 1,500 checklist that applicants have to meet before they will be accepted. A similar organization is the Preferred Hotels & Resorts, a global brand of independently owned luxury hotels and resorts, which was founded in 1968.
Magazine “Best of” lists are a great way to gain insight into 5 star hotels around the world. Cond é Nast's annual Gold List, picked by readers of Cond é Nast Traveler is popular, as is Travel + Leisure's T+L 500. Any number of websites also rate hotels, including Orbitz, Hotels.com, Expedia and Priceline.
Any of the above sources is great place to start looking for your luxury hotel. Remember though, all the ratings are subjective in the end. Do some research to make sure what you think a 5 star hotel is matches the rating system of the reviewers you may be reading. Call the hotel to double check that the facts are the same as what you may have read. Hotels are constantly changing, upgrading and closing.