In his new role, he will join the BHA board of directors and with chief executive Ufi Ibrahim to prepare the industry for the general election and the new political landscape that will follow.
Varney is leading the Cut Tourism VAT campaign, and as chairman of the BHA, his priority will be to remind all political parties of the importance of the hospitality and tourism sector, economically and in terms of jobs, and make them aware of the key issues the industry is hoping the new administration will address.
“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; and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone, but particularly Alan and Ufi, for what has been achieved so far,” he said.
“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.”
According to him, the key challenges currently faced by the industry are price competitiveness (due to 20 per cent VAT), growing the country’s market share for visits from emerging world regions (by relaxing visa policies), and ensuring employment laws don’t jeopardise industry jobs.
He also mentioned the need to develop a “robust skills agenda” to allow the sector to identify and recruit the right people and realise its growth potential.
“All of which would result both in increased revenue for the Exchequer, and the creation of new jobs, particularly for young people, and one assumes therefore priorities for all parties, whatever their colour,” Varney added.
Ibrahim said: “In the build up to the general election there’s a big task ahead of us to ensure that hospitality and tourism achieve high priority status on the government's agenda. Nick’s reputation for results-driven success precedes him, and his experience and expertise will be invaluable to guide and shape our focus as we evolve.”
Parker will retain his role as president of the BHA. He said: “During my time as chairman for the BHA we’ve worked tirelessly to raise the profile of hospitality and tourism to government, and we’re starting to see real recognition for this inspirational industry. Nick’s appointment as chairman will introduce a new dimension and direction to the BHA’s work and I wish him a very warm welcome to the role.”
Varney has 22 years of experience in the visitor attractions, 15 of which at Merlin. Under his leadership, the company has grown from a small UK-based business with a handful of attractions in the UK and Germany to a multi-billion pound publicly quoted company with over 100 attractions and a growing number of hotels in 23 countries.