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Struggling pound could bring UK tourism boom, says Varney

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merlin entertainments CEO and British Hospitality Association (BHA) chair Nick Varney has said that the UK’s decision to leave the European Union could actually bring an influx of visitors based on the weakened value of the struggling pound.

Varney, whose company Merlin operates 32 visitor attractions across the UK including Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and Warwick Castle, addressed BHA members at the annual Hospitality & tourism Summit, telling them that they should “seize the opportunity” despite a volatile financial market.

“I think it is a good thing that the pound is devalued relative to the euro,” said Varney. “If we had voted to remain, putting all other issues to one side, we would have been left with a very uncompetitive currency from the view of exporters and the tourism industry in general. What I think we have to do is lock that competitive advantage in so we get to sort of pick up with renewed vigour the whole argument for cutting tourism VAT on accommodation and on attractions.”

Varney added that tourism and the wider leisure industry would be able to grow under an independent Britain, with the initially weaker pound encouraging visitor and export numbers to flourish.

Despite Varney’s positive outlook, the BHA last week called for the government to “urgently clarify the issue of movement of labour which is so important to the growth and expansion of the sector and reassure our workforce that they are both welcome and valued”.

Other tourism heads have predicted a different path for tourism in the UK, with Tourism Alliance director Kurt Janson predicting ‘Staycation 2’ with a rise in domestic tourism as seen during the 2008 financial crisis. Janson also highlighted potential disadvantages of a Brexit, namely lower levels of foreign investment and tourism businesses having less access to skilled workers from the EU.

UKinbound CEO Deirdre Wells also called the referendum result “disappointing”, adding that there would be “far-reaching consequences” for its members, urging the government to focus on securing the best possible trade deal for the inbound sector.

The hospitality and tourism sector is the UK’s 6th largest contributor to export earnings and 4th largest employer, with 10 per cent of the workforce (4.49 million people) represented across 180,000 businesses including hotels, visitor attractions and restaurants. The BHA says the industry created 600,000 new jobs over the course of the last parliament – one in three of all new jobs in the UK. The BHA also says that with the right policies in place, growth of 100,000 new jobs can be delivered by 2020.

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Merlin Entertainments CEO and British Hospitality Association (BHA) chair Nick Varney has said that the UK’s decision to leave the European Union could actually bring an influx of visitors based on the weakened value of the struggling pound.
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