Sir William Hastings, founder and chairman of Hastings Hotels, has died aged 89.
He passed away at home on Friday after a short illness. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Joy, and his children Howard, Julie, Allyson and Aileen.
Hastings founded the hotel group 50 years ago, which today has a portfolio of six four- and five-star hotels in Northern Ireland, including the Stormont and Europa hotels in Belfast, and the Culloden Estate. The group is also in the middle of a £53m building project, which will make the Grand Central the biggest hotel in Northern Ireland.
In 1964, Hastings purchased his first hotel, the Adair Arms in Ballymena, and was not put off by the Troubles as he continued to expand his portfolio with the purchase of six railway hotels from Grand Metropolitan in 1971. The Slieve Donard in County Down is the only one remaining.
He played a key role in restoring the hotel industry in Northern Ireland and in 1993, purchased the Europa hotel. His dedication to the industry was recognised when he received a knighthood in 2009.
He was chairman and board member of a number of organisations including the Institute of Directors, the Transport Holding Company and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. He also worked with many charities, including Help the Aged, Chest Heart & Stroke, and Men Against Cancer.
He enjoyed playing golf, and was captain of his first club Mahee Island in 1958, and a member more recently at Malone and Royal County Down clubs.
He took great pride in working on the family business and, until he took ill earlier this year, continued to play a key role as chairman of Hastings Hotels.
The Hastings family commented: "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.
"We have been overwhelmed by the tributes paid to Billy from around the world since his death and would like to thank people for their kind words as they have helped us greatly at this very difficult time."
Visit Belfast paid tribute, saying: "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."
Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said: "Whilst becoming an extremely successful businessman, he kept his feet firmly on the ground, always stayed true to his values, and was respected by not only the industry but by all of his staff.
"He began his successful business over 50 years ago and has left a legacy which has formed the foundation for our now successful tourism industry. It is suiting that with his family so embedded in the industry, his legacy will be carried on for generations to come."
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