Architects, designers and hoteliers were all invited to the The Festival of Hospitality at The Relais Henley hotel last week.
Hosted and organised by Karen Willey and Katie Tobin from Always Thinking who created the event last year.
After a tour of the hotel, Relais Henley owner Grace Leo was joined by the CFO Alex Sors, Architect, Nick de Klerk, General Manager, Jonathan Payne and former Henley Mayor and Chair of Planning Committee, Councillor Ken Arlett.
The panel were asked questions about their collective and collaborate input into their vision and creation of The Relais Henley as the first hotel under the Relais Retreats brand. They discussed the importance of trust and teamwork through such a challenging process – the renovation of The Relais Henley was especially challenging due to Covid restrictions and Brexit challenges so the team had to be perfectly in line with each other and trust was paramount.
Grace was asked about what drove her to take on the project and she shared her passion for hotels and desire to create a new brand of boutique waterside properties that would define a new lifestyle of rest, work and play.
The group CFO, Alex Slors shared his insights into what makes a perfect investment cycle and how you marry up aspiration against value and Architect, Nick De Klerk shared insights on the collaborations of the team from build through to operations. General Manager, Jonathan Payne spoke about the value of including the operations team in the build and design process so that practical elements could be addressed early on – such as the need for baths in a leisure hotel. Ken explained to the audience the value the hotel brings to the local community.
Guests afterwards told Katie and Karen that the event was a great opportunity to see and hear first-hand about the collaborative effort it takes to renovate a hotel and how the different departments all worked together to achieve the overall result.
Katie and Karen said “We were delighted to launch the first in the new series of ‘Under the Covers’ event at The Relais Henley. Grace is a visionary hotelier who has a remarkable story to tell from the finest resorts in the Caribbean, designer hotels in Paris and now to creating a new brand in the UK with the first flagship in Henley and next in East Sussex.”