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Bartlett, partner going global with infant marketing firm

Published:Friday | December 6, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Edmund Bartlett (left) and his partner Ron McKay, CEO of ADS Global and marketing affiliate CTICo. - File

Avia Collinder, Business Reporter

Ron McKay, CEO of ADS Global Limited, says his company is expanding office space to accommodate the business brought in by sister company Caribbean Tourism Investment Company Limited (CTICo), which is involved in product and brand promotion for hotels and attractions.

CTICo is operated under joint venture with Edmund Bartlett, who is the company's chairman.

The owners describe the company as a marketing firm, for which ADS provides back-office support.

To date, US$1 million (J$100 million) has been invested in developing back-office operations, leasing new space, legal representation, new hires and networking at ADS' Montego Bay offices at Fairview Office Centre.

ADS will be expanding to a 400-seat operation from 250 seats by January to accommodate the call centre side of CTICo's business, said McKay, who is CEO of both companies.

CTICo launched into business earlier this year after months spent in product development and marketing since its conception in August 2012.

Its newest accounts include Fiesta group in Jamaica, and Dream Hotel, based in New York and Miami in the United States.

McKay said he expects to start generating returns from the company next year.

Locations for offices

Bartlett told the Financial Gleaner that he has been travelling to North America and Europe in search of locations for physical offices for CTICo under plans to grow the business beyond Jamaica, starting in 2014. And he has visited Zambia, Zimbabwe and Cambodia, as well as Southeast Asia to pitch the product offerings of both ADS and CTICo.

"My experience has helped in building a platform for hotels which are not connected to large international brands," said Bartlett, who at one time was a minister of tourism, and only last month gave up his political job as opposition spokesman on tourism.

"It's affordable marketing for the MSME sector, including hotels and attractions as well."

CTICo already has an outreach office in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, a marketing agent in Barbados for the Eastern Caribbean and one agent in Tenerife, Spain, for Europe and North Africa.

The company will next open offices in Miami in 2014. The partners are also eyeing Spain for new offices, and have hired lawyers there to handle the legal requirements for its market entry.

CTICo's first account contracts were signed in 2012. Locally, McKay said: "We have signed with SADCO, which represents Dunn's River and we are also representing Green Grotto Caves, Mystic Mountain and Dolphin Cove. We will be doing brand recognition and also revenue building for those projects."

Bartlett says he is doing more travel now for CTICo than when he was tourism minister.

As a businessman, he has largely been involved in marketing and consultancy. He has not returned to Megatrends, a consultancy established in 1989, but continues to do additional work in the travel sector and, he says, has been on the lecture circuit since leaving his post as Minister of Tourism following the national elections of December 2011.

Sweat equity

McKay describes Bartlett's investment in CTICo as 'sweat equity' - as a knowledge partner - while he has sourced funding from personal capital and ADS Global's reserves to fund its start-up.

However, the ownership vehicle for CTICo is a company called Consolidated Tourism and Investment Consultants Limited (CTICL), as confirmed by McKay, and in that company, Bartlett has a one-third share, according to Companies Office records. McKay is a director of CTICL but not a shareholder.

Another CTICL shareholder, John Spencer, is chief operating officer of CTICo. Bartlett, Spencer and Carol Brown each own one-third of CTICL.

ADS is in the business of 'web-engaged business-to-business teleservices'.

The company began in 1997 as The Nova Group, and several spin-offs later evolved into America Direct Services.

In 2001, McKay launched a near-shore strategy for America Direct Services, which included offices in Barbados, Guyana and St Vincent. The Eastern Caribbean offices were later divested.

Business lines

In 2009, he consolidated all worldwide operations and moved them to Jamaica while forming ADS Global Inc, according to the company's website.

In 2011, ADS Global formed CTICo with Bartlett.

CTICo's business lines include what it describes as customised profit-support and loyalty-reward models for the hotel, tourism and travel sectors. It also operates its own rewards platform, OTA/ Lifestyle Rewards; an online travel agency, which does upselling for Fiesta, and a discount programme called Travel Club. The company also pitches excursion/tour, hotel and travel packages.

ADS Global and CTICo together currently employ over 250 employees - 50 of them by CTICo. ADS has already leased an additional 10,000 square feet of space in the Fairview office complex for the expansion, which McKay says is directly connected to new accounts signed to CTICo.

As a result, the group's operating space has doubled to 20,000 square feet.

The partners say negotiations are advanced for other accounts in the Dominican Republic and Spain. Earnings from accounts in 2014 are expected to double revenue for ADS Global itself, McKay says.

"The creation of the contact centre in Montego Bay offered us the opportunity to do upselling, offering a profit-support programme to hotels," he said.

Bartlett adds: "Two weeks before guests arrive we call and offer more value in the form of room upgrades and special discounts on services, anything that adds value, while at the same time adding income for the hotels. Through a travel club membership, major discounts are also offered to the individual consumers."

Bartlett says CTICo also provides its business clients with a post-vacation experience analysis, tracking guests through its rewards programme and providing feedback as needed.

"We can afterwards give clients market intelligence so they can tune their products to suit the market," he said. "It is what, Orbitz and do as well."