Hotel diamonds versus stars.

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Is a five-star hotel the same as a five-diamond hotel? Basically, yes, but only in North America. In the U.S. and Canada, Forbes Travel Guide (formerly Mobil Travel Guide) launched the hotel star rating system in 1958. On the other hand, the American Automobile Association has been rating hotels with diamonds since 1977.

In Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Malta and Hungary, there are laws that define the hotel star rating. In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the respective hotel industry associations define the star rating system. In France, the rating is defined by the public tourist board, Atout France.

In order to get Forbes's fivestar ratings, a hotel's staff must meet criteria such as greeting arriving guests curbside within 60 seconds and offering tasting samples to drinkers ordering wine by the glass. In Italy, to get five stars, the criteria includes a 24-hour reception desk, receptionists that speak three foreign languages, and double rooms starting at 16 sq. meter.

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