The Roslin Beach Hotel, Thorpe Bay, has received the coveted rating from Enjoy England, part of national tourist board VisitEngland.
A hotel inspector informed management of the accolade they had achieved yesterday, after enjoying an overnight stay at the independently-owned hotel on the seafront.
Jubilant managers said the award was a huge boost for both them and the borough.
Jacqui Harris, the hotel’s managing director, said: “This makes us the best hotel in Southend because there are no other four-star hotels here.
“We are the first to achieve this and it’s fantastic. We had no idea this person was from VisitEngland until the morning, when she told us who she was.
“She said she had a fantastic stay and was very impressed.
Over the past five years, we have completely refurbished the hotel with the aim of being the best. And now we are!”
Mrs Harris hopes the accolade would help them attract scores of discerning visitors. She added: “I am told stars who perform at the Cliffs Pavilion and high-profile visitors to companies like KeyMed and RBS would not stay in the town because there were no four-star hotels. “We will be able to keep those visitors happy.
“We won’t be resting on our laurels though and have lots of plans for the future, particularly with trying to attract awards for our menus.”
Scott Dolling, Southend Council’s group manager for tourism and promotion, was impressed and welcomed the latest boost to the seaside. He said: “To get four stars you have to go the extra mile.
“It’s great news for Southend. Places like the Roslin and the Palace Hotel have brought a whole new customer base to Southend, and all the investment in the town over the past couple of years is helping investors see new opportunities.”
Derek Jarvis, councillor responsible for culture and tourism, added: “I am delighted.
“It sets another benchmark for the town, and creates a challenge to others.”
James Berresford, chief executive of VisitEngland, said: “We are delighted to welcome Roslin Beach Hotel into our VisitEngland quality assessment scheme as the first four-star hotel in Southend.
“Our job is to inspire visitors to enjoy every minute in this country, and the quality of their experience is paramount.”