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CEO Howard Hastings on History Beating Modernity in Luxury Travel

Luxury travel has come so far, but sometimes authentic and decadent heritage is just the thing you are after. This family-run luxury travel company offers five star hotels and resorts with strong historical elements. You can even stay in one of the oldest castles in the world. 

We spoke to Howard Hastings, the CEO of Hastings Hotels, about how his family do business and how the needs of ultra high-net worth guests are evolving in 2017. 

“My father bought our first hotel 50 years ago,” Howard explains. “The Culloden Hotel came on the market, and at that stage it had eleven bedrooms, and a busy restaurant, in a historic property that was losing money. He was attracted to the building because of its magnificent setting, and because he thought he could turn it into a better business proposition. He purchased it then for £100,000.” Now the hotel is a five star luxury residence that has hosted guests including Sir Richard Attenborough and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. 

“Then Ballygally Castle was purchased by my father the following year,” Howard told us. “It is the oldest inhabited Castle in Northern Ireland, with four of its bedrooms in the original tower of the 1625 Castle. It was formerly a vanity project of Cyril Lord, the magnate who earned his fortune developing the technology and manufacturing foam backed carpets. He had already left the castle and was living in the Bahamas when the sale to my father was completed.”

The ultra high-net worth client is very unique. With decades of experience working with this market, the Hastings family knows a thing or two about them and their needs. “Some of the highest net worth travelers can have a lot of demands, whilst others are there to seek out genuine warm hospitality with the minimum of fuss. There are no two travelers alike, and so we don’t try and offer a “one size fits all” service.” There is only one constant for the Hastings family. “Customer expectations rise every year as their own living standards rise.”

Travel trends are constantly evolving and innovations in the industry are becoming more regular. “One of the main things we are finding is that we are seeing more and more visitors from the emerging markets of the middle East and Asia,” explains Howard. “We believe that our guests want that immersive experience, where the people they meet are as much a part of their visitor experience as the physical attributes of the hotel they are staying in.”

We recommend a visit to Mount Stewart and Hillsborough Castle, the Queen’s residency in Northern Ireland, which is open for private tours. Hastings Hotels (hastingshotels.com, 028 9042 1066) offer nightly rates at The Culloden Estate & Spa. To find out more about visiting Ireland, go to ireland.com.