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Hastings Hotels founder Sir William named Hospitality Hero 2011

Founder and chairman of Hastings Hotels Group Sir William Hastings has been awarded the 2011 Hospitality Hero award at the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation president's party.

"Billy Hastings has always been involved in and passionate about promoting tourism to Northern Ireland," said James Greer from Hospitality Review magazine.

"In his opinion, ours is the most wonderful tourist destination in the world and, coupled with the natural warmth and kindness of the locals, he sees Northern Ireland becoming recognised and appreciated around the world."

Sir William inherited four pubs from his father and was running them from the age of 22.

In 1964 he established the Hastings Hotel Group with the purchase of the Adair Arms hotel in Ballymena, and gradually eased himself out of the pub trade.

He went on buying hotels through the 1960s and in the turbulent 1970's, skillfully acquiring the bombed-out Europa Hotel.

His foresight has seen the development of his group of hotels, which includes the Culloden and Slieve Donard, to four and five-star grade with upmarket hotel spas, and the building of conference centres to develop strong revenue streams.