Northern Ireland hotelier Sir William Hastings dies - family pay tribute to 'lasting legacy'
'We cannot describe the huge void that he has left in our lives but we take comfort in the fact that he was an inspiration to so many people'
Northern Ireland hotelier Sir William Hastings has died age 89.
Billy passed away peacefully at home on Friday following a short illness surrounded by his wife Joy and children Julie, Howard, Allyson and Aileen.
He was married to Joy for 57 years and his family paid tribute to him as "a loving husband, father and grand-father" as well as "Ireland’s leading hotelier".
"We are immensely proud of his outstanding accomplishments", they said.
Reflecting on his career the Hastings family said they took "comfort" in the fact that he was an "inspiration to so many people" and vowed to honour his "lasting legacy".
The statement continued: "A former pupil of Royal Belfast Academical Institution, he left school at 16 and went into the timber trade as a junior apprentice before joining his brother Roy in the family licensed trade business at 18. Together they owned many pubs mainly in East Belfast.
"In 1964, he purchased his first hotel, the Adair Arms in Ballymena, and from then was the lifeblood of Northern Ireland’s hotel industry. He did not let the Troubles put him off as he continued to expand his portfolio with the purchase of six railway hotels from Grand Metropolitan in 1971. The beautiful Slieve Donard Hotel is the only one remaining today.
"He played a key role in restoring the hotel industry and in 1993, when many were shying away from investing, he purchased the Europa Hotel and transformed it into one of the world’s most famous hotels offering much local employment and trade to local suppliers. His dedication to the industry was recognised when he received a Knighthood in 2009 having already been awarded a CBE and an OBE. The University of Ulster awarded him an honorary Doctor of Letters in 1998.
"He was Chairman and board member of a number of organisations including the Institute of Directors, the Transport Holding Company, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Bass Ireland and a passionate member and past president of the Belfast East Rotary Club for 50 years as well as a loyal parishioner formerly of Drumbeg Church of Ireland and latterly of Downpatrick Cathedral.
"His hobby was golf which he played every Saturday he could. His first club was Mahee Island where he was captain in 1958 and he was a member more recently at Malone Golf Club and Royal County Down.
"He also had a great loyalty to Dundela Football Club in his younger days of being a Publican in the Belmont area.
"He took great pride in working together with us in the family business and until he took ill earlier this year, he still came into his office every day and continued to play a key role as Chairman of Hastings Hotels. In 2015 Billy was immensely proud to announce the purchase of what is to be the seventh Hastings hotel and he was very much looking forward to seeing the rebirth of the Grand Central Hotel when it opens next year.
"We cannot describe the huge void that he has left in our lives but we take comfort in the fact that he was an inspiration to so many people and has left a lasting legacy which we will remain dedicated in honouring.”
Since the announcement of Billy's passing on Friday afternoon, tributes have poured in from the worlds of politics and business.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said she was "deeply saddened" to hear of his passing.
"His commitment laid the groundwork for much of more recent development in Belfast and across Northern Ireland. It isn’t an understatement to describe Billy as the father of the modern tourism industry in Northern Ireland," she said.
"My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Joy, his children and wider family circle at this difficult time. They can be immensely proud of the legacy he leaves and the impact he made on so many people throughout his life."
Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann expressed his "deepest sympathies to the Hastings family".
"Sir Billy Hastings was a giant of the Northern Ireland Hotel industry and Business community, who always saw the light in the darkest of times," he said.
"While others looked to invest outside Northern Ireland, Sir Billy Hastings invested in Northern Ireland`s potential and its people. He will also be remembered for his generosity and support for numerous charities. He will be sadly missed."
Visit Belfast, Belfast's official tourism organisation, said: "We unite in honouring his lifetime of exemplary and inspiring business achievement, and, in particular, his exceptional contribution to Belfast and Northern Ireland’s tourism and hospitality success.
"A stalwart of Northern Ireland’s business community for generations, Sir William was a true entrepreneur with vision, positive in his outlook and always optimistic about this region’s future and the contribution he knew it could make on a global scale."
Belfast Telegraph Digital