Roy Yates, the vice president of sales and marketing for Openwide International USA, a company that provides services to the entertainment and leisure sectors, used to be an entertainer himself.
Yates grew up near Liverpool, England, and started out as an entertainer — sometimes working as a comedian — in hotels and resorts in Austria and Spain. He moved on to organizing events, became a cruise director in the U.K. and then wrote training courses and plans for event organizers.
Now based in Lighthouse Point, Yates oversees Openwide’s operations in the U.S., which include finding talent, organizing and planning entertainment for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises on the East Coast and for Princess Cruises on the West Coast.
A partner in Openwide’s U.K.-based parent company, Yates also arranges and manages entertainment for other international leisure venues such as resort destinations and theme parks, as well as designing entertainment events and consulting on new projects.
“We provide entertainment solutions to cruise lines, local governments, theme parks and other clients,” said Yates, who joined Openwide in 1994.
“I’m the only full-time company employee in the U.S., but we have about 30 subcontractors to handle auditions,” said Yates, who arrived in South Florida in 1998 and opened his company’s office here in 1999. His first assignment was to produce shows for two cruise ships.
“My only problem is that I work in several different time zones — the U.K, the East Coast, the West Coast and the Middle East,” said Yates, who is also president of the British American Chamber of Commerce in South Florida and of the official Liverpool FC (soccer) Supporters’ Club in Florida.
Founded in 1992, parent company Openwide International Ltd. is based in Bournemouth, England. It also has other operations in Spain, Poland and the Middle East, and a client list that includes Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour, Virgin Holidays (part of the Virgin group), the Garden of Ideas, the Extreme Media Group, and Britain’s oldest museum, the Royal Armouries.
Openwide develops new entertainment concepts and works to make them available in theme parks and live on stage at various other venues.
In the U.K., for example, Openwide worked with local governments and made investments of its own to modernize two seaside resorts in Bournemouth (where the company’s headquarters are located) and Cromer.
The company covers a wide range of leisure, entertainment and tourism activities.
It designs and provides operational management for theme parks and other visitor attractions, manages theaters for local governments, redesigns existing venues, provides services to tourism companies, aids in summer season theatrical productions in the U.K., offers production design services, manages events and consults with clients on the design and management of attractions such as museums and heritage sites.
Aside from Yates, the company is owned by two other partners: Steve Cutbush and Rory Holburn.
The company has a small permanent staff since activities such as auditions and event management are carried out by subcontractors.
How does Openwide find talent?
“We’ve been working in this field for a long time so we know the people and, when we need to, get recommendations from the groups we work with. There are a lot of entertainers on the market,” said Yates.
For a locally based cruise line, for example, Openwide may be asked to find groups of performers for evening shows, such as musicians, piano players, comedians, ventriloquists and jugglers.
Yates’ most important current venture is looking for investors and venues in the U.S. for a new Openwide project called RockReef, aimed at attracting visitors to indoor and outdoor adventure sports.
The first RockReef project, which opened on Bournemouth Pier in the U.K. last year, has 25 themed indoor climbing walls, including a real rock wall climb, a vertical drop slide, a high rope obstacle course, a “leap of faith” challenge and a long indoor cave with three different routes and varying levels of difficulty.
This popular venue also offers a zip wire connecting the pier to the shore that carries people 80 feet above the water, and is adding a new freefall simulation and standing surf wave this year.
The project has attracted crowds and reinvigorated the old pier in England.
The RockReef concept, which safely combines the fun of a theme park with physical activity, can be tailored to indoor and outdoor venues, like shopping malls, birthday and corporate parties, and other events.
“A lot of young people in the U.K. and the U.S. are overweight and don’t get enough exercise,” Yates said. “We’re looking to develop the RockReef concept here and in other countries.”
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Openwide International USA
Business: Arranges and manages entertainment for international leisure venues such as resort destinations, cruise lines and theme parks. Designs and provides consulting on entertainment events and projects for clients worldwide.
World headquarters: Bournemouth, England, with operations in the U.S., Spain, Poland and the Middle East.
U.S. headquarters: Lighthouse Point.
Management: Roy Yates, vice president of sales and marketing for the U.S. and a partner of Openwide International.
Founded: 1992. (The U.S. operation started in 1999.)
Clients: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour; Virgin Holidays, The Royal Armouries.
Employees: Roy Yates, plus about 30 contractors to handle auditions in the U.S.
Ownership: Privately held by three partners: Steve Cutbush, Rory Holburn and Roy Yates.
Source: Openwide International