BHA Summit: Varney urges tourism department change

The next government is being urged to hand responsibility for promoting tourism to a new department.

The call came from Merlin Entertainments chief executive and British Hospitality Association chairman Nick Varney, who criticised the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for failing to sufficiently support the tourism industry.

Responsibility for tourism “must not continue to reside within DCMS’s remit” because it was a “second tier priority” for it and should be given to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, he said.

“It will not be regarded as a serious industry within government until that happens and the much-aspired-to ‘seat at the table’ will continue to be in another room,” Varney told the BHA Summit.

He also argued for the “dangerous bidding war” surrounding minimum and living wages on the campaign trail to stop and for pay to be left to the independent Low Pay Commission.

Varney added the national living wage had been implemented “without consultation or warning” and that Labour and the SNP were pledging for it to hit £10 by 2020 instead of £9.20 as planned.

These and other costs “threaten the existence of some and put all under pressure”, Varney claimed.

Also on Varney’s election wish list was for recently introduced business rates to be implemented “more fairly” as he suggested they disproportionately hit companies which needed a lot of investment put into them while those in the digital economy were “largely unaffected”.

There was also a renewed plea for the next government to reduce VAT on tourism-related industries, something he called a “silver bullet solution” to help the sector deal with rising costs and competition from other countries, the Daily Telegraph reported.