breaking news

Hotel veteran Sir William Hastings dies at 89

December 15th, 2017 | by LCN Editor
Hotel veteran Sir William Hastings dies at 89

Sir William Hastings, founder and chairman of the Hastings Hotels group, has passed away at home surrounded by his family, following a brief period of illness.

In a statement this afternoon, the Hastings family appealed for privacy, and added:

“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.”

Sir Billy (89) had been married to Joy for 57 years. As 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 went on to own many pubs, mostly in east Belfast.

In 1964, he purchased his first hotel, the Adair Arms in Ballymena, and from that point on, he became a force to be reckoned with in Northern Ireland’s hotel industry.

Sir Billy wasn’t deterred by the outbreak of the Troubles. He continued to expand his portfolio with the purchase of six railway hotels from Grand Metropolitan in 1971, although the flagship Slieve Donard Resort & Spa is the only one from that package remaining in Hastings’ ownership today.

Sir William with wife, Joy.

He is credited with playing a key role in restoring the hotel industry in Northern Ireland and perhaps, his greatest triumph has been the restoration of the Europa hotel in Belfast. Bombed repeatedly by terrorists during the conflict, Sir Billy took on the venue on in 1993 and transformed it into the internationally-renowned hotel that it is today.

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.

Sir Billy was chairman and board member of a number of organisations including the Institute of Directors, the Transport Holding Company, the former 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, Downpatrick Cathedral.

His hobby was golf which he played every Saturday he could manage. 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 as a publican in the Belmont area of Belfast.

In 2015, Licensed & Catering News was delighted and honoured to have Sir Billy accept our Lifetime Achievement Award at the LCN Awards and in an interview with LCN for our 75th anniversary edition that same year, he said:

“I don’t think I’m a proud person. I just like to do things right and there’s pride in achieving the things that you want to do. There’s self-satisfaction when you get things right and that’s still the ambition that we have for the business today.”


Sir William accepts the LCN Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015, accompanied by his wife, Joy and the LCN Awards organisers, Bill and Wynn Penton.

Sir Billy was known to take great pride in the family business and until he took ill earlier this year, he still went into his office every day and continued to play a key role as chairman of the group.

During his 2015 interview with LCN, Sir Billy admitted to feeling that throughout his life, he’d been far too cautious in business.  A passion for detail, he said, had prevented him for securing a rash of prominent and well-priced properties.

“If you really want something, then I think should get it and worry about the problems later,” he advised. “You know, the projects that I have done best with in my life are the ones that I knew least about when I took them on…”


Sir William Hastings 1928 – 2017


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