Merlin Entertainment CEO takes role as new BHA chairman

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Nick Varney, the current CEO for Merlin Entertainments, will take over the role of Chairman of the British Hospitality Association when Alan Parker CBE steps down on 1st January 2015.

At the start of next year, Varney, who already leads the hugely successful Cut Tourism VAT Campaign, will join the BHA board of directors working with CEO Ufi Ibrahim and the team in the lead up to the general election.

His first task will be to make all political parties aware of the strength of the hospitality and tourism sector, both in economic terms and as a key employer.

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Varney brings with him 22 years’ experience working in the visitor attractions industry, having led the management buyout from Vardon in 1999 to form Merlin Entertainments.

Commenting on his new role Nick Varney said: “I am delighted to take up the role of the Chair of the BHA at a time when it is so important that the industry voice is heard at a political level.The BHA is to be congratulated on the excellent work done to date to build relationships and raise the profile of the key issues which affect all our businesses.

“Now with a General Election imminent we have a very short window of time to build on this, and to make sure that the economic and social importance of the hospitality and tourism sector is understood by all political parties; and that our issues are on their agenda for the future.

“I see the key challenges here as:
• “Price competitiveness. UK VAT at 20% means we are not operating on a level playing field with the rest of the world.
• “Emerging markets. The UK is failing to gain our fair share of business and visitors from new markets like China and Russia due to short sighted visa policies.
• The need for enlightened employment legislation that does not jeopardise industry growth/ jobs.
• “The development of a robust skills agenda to ensure we are able to identify and recruit the right people to realise the sector growth potential.
• “The need for a more efficient planning process, which encourages rather than restricts further development.”

Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive officer of the BHA said: “Alan Parker has been a true ambassador for the hospitality industry and on behalf of all the BHA members and partners I’d like to thank him for his tireless support and enthusiasm as well as welcoming Nick Varney as his successor. We are delighted to welcome Nick as the BHA’s new Chairman.”

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