Europa and Culloden owner sees profits rise to £4.9m as new 300-bed hotel takes shape
Family-owned hotel giant Hastings has seen profits increase to almost £5m as it moves to complete Northern Ireland's largest hotel by next year.
The company, which owns hotels such as the Europa and the Culloden, also saw its turnover rising to £36.7m for the year ending October 31, 2016.
And pre-tax profits at the business, which is headed by chairman Sir William Hastings, increased by 20%, rising from £4.07m to £4.92m in the space of a year.
The Hastings Hotels group is pumping another £23m into building Northern Ireland's biggest hotel, the Grand Central.
A total of 304 bedrooms and more than 150 jobs will be involved in the scheme.
It's now expected to cost £53m, up from an initial estimate of £30m.
Edward Carson, vice-chairman and financial director of Hastings Hotels, said: "Our 2016 results were very pleasing, with each of our six hotels trading well in Northern Ireland's current buoyant tourism economy. And 2017 is also proving to be a strong year across the group.
"The Grand Central is progressing well and is on target for the projected completion date of June 2018."
In its strategic report, the company said: "The group will continue to seek every opportunity to increase profitable turnover."
It added: "The external commercial environment is expected to remain competitive in 2017."
Speaking about risks facing the business, going forward, the company's strategic report said: "The key business risks affecting the group are considered to relate to competition from other licensed premises and hotel groups, and employee retention.
"These risks are addressed by the board carrying out regular strategic reviews, including assessments of competitor activity and the board's active review of competitor prices."
Over the course of the year, the number of employees working for the company fell. Worker numbers dropped from 1,185 to 1,138 in the last year.
That includes 540 full-time and 598 part-time staff.
However, its overall pay bill increased, rising from £11.8m to £12.2m, including social security and other pension costs.
The latest accounts also say that "subsequent to the year end, the group has renegotiated its banking facilities".
Speaking about the revised plans for the new Grand Central earlier this year, William Hastings, chairman of Hastings Hotels, said: "We are pleased that the revised planning permission for the Grand Central Hotel has been approved.
"This represents our company's biggest single investment to date of £53m and is the sum required to create a top-quality hotel befitting the name Grand Central and of which Belfast city can be proud."
It will be the group's seventh hotel in Northern Ireland and should open in the middle of next year.
Howard Hastings, managing director of Hastings Hotels, said the company would work with a wide range of local firms on the project.
"Our lead construction partner is Graham Construction and its building expertise and quality of workmanship is second to none," he said.
"The structural steel has been fabricated in Lisburn and the cladding is being designed and procured through a company based in Moira.
"The mechanical and electrical contractors are also local, as are the bricklayers, joiners, plasterers and even the tower crane driver."
Planning permission was granted last year for the initial £30m, 200-bedroom scheme.
In Belfast, around 30 hotels are at various stages of planning and development.
And around 1,100 rooms are being added across five schemes currently under-construction.
They are the Marriott AC at City Quays, the Grand Central at Bedford Street, Hampton by Hilton at Hope Street, the Maldron Hotel at Brunswick Street and the Titanic Hotel. Ten Square, behind the City Hall, is also being extended.
Meanwhile, Liverpool developer Lawrence Kenwright plans at least four hotels in Belfast.
The former Scottish Mutual building in the city will be turned into an 80-bedroom hotel, inspired by Manchester United and Northern Ireland footballing legend George Best.
Mr Kenwright also says renovating the former Crumlin Road courthouse to make it a luxury hotel will cost around £25m.