Merlin is the world's second-largest visitor attraction operator, running 98 attractions, eight hotels and three holiday villages in 22 countries across four continents and welcoming 54 million visitors annually.
Woods will report directly to Merlin Entertainments chief executive Nick Varney in her new role, which will include responsibility for group marketing and sales functions, as well as developing the corporate brand to key stakeholder groups.
Varney said: "This significant new senior role reflects the continued growth and dynamism of the company and we are very pleased to have someone of Emma’s experience and talent to carve out this new role.
"Her skills are proven in both leisure and FMCG and we feel that she will be a great addition to the Merlin Entertainments management team."
Prior to her six years with PizzaExpress, Woods was European brand director for Unilever's Slim-Fast brand.
Merlin’s UK attractions include Alton Towers, Madame Tussauds, Legoland, The EDF Energy London Eye, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures, Blackpool Tower, Sea Life and Warwick Castle.
Its worldwide attractions include Wild Life Sydney Zoo, Sydney Tower Eye and Skywalk, Siam Ocean World and Busan Aquarium.