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Hotelier Grace Leo takes over UK seaside property

Hotelier Grace Leo has taken on a property in Sussex as her second UK property, continuing the roll out of her new brand, The Relais.


Leo has acquired The Cooden Beach Hotel, which has 41 rooms and suites and sits on a private beach in Bexhill-on-Sea on the Sussex coast.


The 1920s building includes a beachfront restaurant and large sea view terrace and will remain open for a predicted busy 2021 staycation season, with a planned full renovation.


The hotel will then reopen as The Relais Cooden Beach in spring 2022, with the ambition of turning Cooden Beach into a sought-after destination for Londoners, “akin to the Hamptons on Long Island for New Yorkers”.


“Once I had seen The Cooden Beach Hotel, I was in awe of its unique location and possibilities,” said Leo. “I have developed upscale resort hotels in far-off destinations such as St Barth’s, Mustique, and St Jean-Cap-Ferrat, so my instinct says that there’s no reason why we can’t recreate that idyllic resort experience in a hotel that’s on the English coast, despite the cooler climate. Our plans are to create a haven for our guests to rest, relax, and be nourished in a beautiful seaside setting.”


Bexhill-on-Sea is two hours from London and Leo said her vision was to “transform this hidden gem into a stylish hideaway”, with a new standard of beach services being introduced this summer.

Leo plans to turn The Cooden Beach Hotel into a desirable spot for Londoners
Leo plans to turn The Cooden Beach Hotel into a desirable spot for Londoners

Guests will be able to reserve a sun lounger and get beach service, while massage cabanas will also be available for spa treatments, alongside new yoga and stretching classes.


The Cooden Beach Hotel will join sister hotel The Relais Henley, which Leo plans to open this summer in the popular town of Henley-on-Thames in time for the famous Regatta in August and following a full renovation of the Grade II listed landmark building.


Leo is partnering with Tim Hartnoll, executive chairman of X-Press Feeders, part of the Sea Consortium group, a global shipping company based in Singapore, on the UK hotel projects. His other hospitality interests include the Bawah Reserve, an eco-focused resort in the Anambas islands of Indonesia.


The duo said they plan to grow the portfolio of UK hotels in “unique waterside locations, reinvigorating iconic properties”.


Now based in London, Leo’s past projects have spanned Europe, North America, South America, the Caribbean and Asia. Her career has included owning and managing GLA Hotels and Grace Leo Consultancy, and senior executive positions for investment and hospitality businesses, as well board roles for Compagnie Lebon and Leading Hotels of the World.

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