Speaker Profile

Varney (Nick)

Nick Varney

Chief Executive Officer, Merlin Entertainments plc; Chairman, British Hospitality Association

Nick has over 25 years’ experience in the visitor attractions industry and was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Merlin Entertainments plc in 1999.

Nick started his career in consumer goods marketing, first with Rowntree and then with Reckitt & Colman.  He went on to hold senior positions within The Tussauds Group (Pearson PLC), including Marketing Director of Alton Towers and Head of Group Marketing, before becoming Managing Director of Vardon Attractions and a main board Director of Vardon plc.  In 1999 Nick led the management buyout of Vardon Attractions to form Merlin Entertainments plc, guiding the company’s dynamic growth strategy through several private equity partnerships and a highly successful IPO in November 2013.  Now a public company Merlin continues to grow under his leadership currently operating over 100 theme parks and attractions, as well as hotels and holiday villages in 23 countries and four continents. 

Nick is increasingly active in the wider tourism agenda, particularly in the UK, but also worldwide.    As Chairman of the British Hospitality Association (BHA) for example his priority is to ensure all UK political parties are aware of the importance of the hospitality and tourism sector both in economic terms and as a key employer, and to highlight the key issues the industry is looking for the Government to address.