Belfast Telegraph

Hastings Hotels behind Culloden and the Europa post 8% rise in profits

By Jamie Stinson

Hastings Hotels Group has seen its pre-tax profits rise by 8% despite a year of difficult trading conditions.

The group, which owns the five-star Culloden and Europa in Belfast, saw pre-tax profits increase from £2m in 2013 to £2.2m in the 12 months to October 31, 2014.

Turnover saw a slight rise from £32m the previous year to £32.5m last year.

In 2014 employment numbers rose slightly from 1,100 to 1,114.

Edward Carson, Hastings Hotels financial director, said the company was happy with its results considering the trying trading conditions.

He said: "The directors consider that the outturn for the year is satisfactory given the difficult economic conditions which created a difficult trading environment throughout the financial year, and they are satisfied with the progress that has been made.

"The profit generated in the year reflects the conditions. The group will continue to seek every opportunity to increase profitable turnover."

In May, the hotel group - which is owned by the Hastings family - purchased the 23-storey Windsor House, one of the tallest buildings in Ireland, on Bedford Street in Belfast for £6.5m.

The new 200-bed hotel, which will create 150 jobs, will be called Grand Central Hotel, and is due to open in 2018, with the building also including serviced apartments and offices.

It is the first time Hastings has purchased a property since 1993, when it bought the Europa Hotel on Belfast's Great Victoria Street and the Everglades in Londonderry.

Howard Hastings, the group's managing director, explained the thinking behind the purchase of Windsor House to Belfast Telegraph earlier this week.

"We are confident about the location and outcome and what we are trying to do," Mr Hastings said.

"Its attractiveness and beauty is in the height and the designs the architects have come up with do play to that.

"It's got a lovely facade which lends itself to a sense of arrival."

The move aims to capitalise on the growing potential of the city as a business tourist destination, evidenced in the £19.5m expansion of the Waterfront Hall into a conference centre, which opens in the summer of 2016.

Other hotels the group owns include the Slieve Donard in Newcastle, Stormont Hotel in Belfast, and Ballygally Castle in Co Antrim. It also has a 50% stake in Dublin luxury hotel the Merrion, alongside radiator magnate Martin Naughton and ESB chairman Lochlann Quinn.

Economist John Simpson said: "Hastings Group is Northern Ireland's largest publicly recorded results in the hotel industry and offers a reasonable rate of return on investment."

Mr Simpson added the Windsor House purchase shows confidence in the tourism sector.

"The conversion of Windsor House to the Grand Central Hotel represents a major change in the ambition of the group. It is a sign of their confidence in tourism in Northern Ireland," he said.

Belfast Telegraph