New era for Hastings Hotels as it appoints new group chairman
The man who has held the purse strings at Northern Ireland's largest independent hotel group for half a century has been named its new chairman.
Edward Carson is the longest serving employee of Hastings Hotels, which owns seven hotels including the Europa Hotel, Grand Central Hotel and Culloden Estate Resort.
He joined the company as finance director in 1972, just six years after it was founded by the late Sir William 'Billy' Hastings.
He now takes over the role of the late hotelier, who passed away in December 2017 at the age of 89, overseeing one of the company's most successful eras, which has included the opening of the new £30m 300-bedroom Grand Central Hotel.
Mr Carson's career with Hastings started when the group was in its infancy.
In 1966, Sir William bought the Stormont and Adair Arms hotels. He went on to acquire a group of six run-down railway hotels in 1971.
In a bid to grow and invest in the business at the time, he advertised for a financial director and appointed Edward Carson, who returned home to Belfast from London in 1972 to assume the role.
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The hotel group is now searching for its first new finance director for 47 years.
The new chairman will continue to work alongside Sir William's four children to run the company.
Paying tribute to Mr Carson's lifetime contribution to the family business, managing director Howard Hastings said: "Working closely with my father, Edward helped steer Hastings Hotels through some of the most tumultuous years in Northern Ireland's history, which saw the Slieve Donard Hotel and a number of venues in the group bombed on several occasions.
"With the Troubles at their height, few tourists dared venture to Northern Ireland and our business was driven not by bedrooms, but by what was then a lively entertainment scene - with 10% of our sales even coming from cigarettes."
The managing director said that despite the setbacks and obstacles down the years, the family group charted steady growth.
But he stressed that it didn't happen overnight.
"Hastings Hotels has got to where it is today through very gradual investment and evolvement over a sustained period of time," he said.
"The evolution of IT has played a huge role in helping us to become much more sophisticated as a business, as has the decision to consolidate our reservations and business support services for all of the hotels into one centralised unit at our head office - 1066 House.
"Now, at over 1,000 bedrooms across Northern Ireland, we're proud to be recognised and respected as a leading hotel group which is built on the warmth of its welcome and personal touch, combined with exacting international standards."
Mr Hastings said none of it would have been possible without Edward Carson's leadership and stewardship.
"We are deeply indebted to him, both as a family and as a business, for his steadfast loyalty and dedication to Hastings Hotels," he said. "I am confident we will continue to benefit from his excellent wisdom and guidance in the coming years as he takes on the role of chairperson.
"But we also look forward to welcoming in a new era for the group with the appointment of a new financial director who, like Edward, will be instrumental in helping Hastings Hotels embrace the many challenges and opportunities that are sure to come our way in the future."
Commenting yesterday about the search for the new finance director at Hastings Hotels, Gordon Carson, managing director at recruitment specialists 4c Executive, said: "This is an exceptionally important role, fully-integrated into what is arguably one of Northern Ireland's most successful and well-known businesses.
"With the group very much underpinned by a strong family ethos and people culture, the successful candidate must be able to forge strong and lasting relationships with hotel managers, HR and finance teams in the business, as well as external professional relationships.
"This is an extremely exciting opportunity for a high-calibre individual to help steer Hastings Hotels along its journey of continued investment and expansion in the coming years."