By Vincent Alonzo
As a VIP Host, Manny Kess knows how to create exceptional experiences
If there is one cardinal rule for planning an incentive trip, it is that you must provide experiences that
are not only exciting and enticing, but that the award
winner could not do on his or her own. That is at the
core of the “wow factor” that incentive experts know
is vital to a successful program.
While a muscular budget can make this easier, it
is not nearly as important as creativity, connections,
and understanding how to provide incentive attendees
— both singly and in groups — with experiences that
create a lasting memory.
For advice on that, Successful Meetings turned
to Manny Kess, principal of The Kess Group, a Las
Vegas–based concierge and hospitality company that
organizes luxury experiences for groups. Another way
to put that, Kess says, is “VIP hosts.”
He offered his take on what that means, and how
a VIP host can create over-the-top experiences that
attendees will remember for years. That can include
booking a major recording artist to perform a private
show, getting access to super-exclusive events, tap-
ping into unusual venues, or getting the team to bond
over a track day, Lamborghini-style.
QWhat is a VIP host and how did you get started as one?
A VIP host is someone who helps organize and facilitate the arrangements being made for all types of
What we do is very different from a regular VIP
host, who typically works for either a hotel or a specific property. Rather, we work for a specific client,
which can be an individual or a company. We don’t
steer a client to a specific property, we take care of a
client’s every need while they are visiting Las Vegas.
In 2011 I moved to Las Vegas from New York,
where I owned a restaurant and catering company
in Manhattan, to take a position as a VIP host at the
world-famous Wet Republic Ultra Pool. I made the
move because it was a great opportunity and I had
always been enticed by the Las Vegas culture and life-style. It was a fresh new challenge and chance for me
to expand and grow.
I was promoted within eight months and stayed
with the company for one year, and then started my
company shortly thereafter. This was borne out by the
fact that I saw there was a need to service my clients
from start to finish, as opposed to steering them to
specific venues that were under my umbrella. This
served as the core of what became The Kess Group.
QWhat qualities make a great VIP host?
A great work ethic, attention to detail, and thinking
outside the box to create a customized experience for
the client. I also think it’s essential for a VIP host to
see the big picture as opposed to what is in front of
them today. Finally, and perhaps most importantly:
Treating the customer the way that the VIP host
would want to be treated.
QHow can meeting planners make the most of a VIP host’s services?
Meeting planners can benefit from having “boots on
the ground” that know the area and all the venues,
and are able to quickly ascertain the goals of their
group. The VIP host should be a specialist as opposed
to a generalist. Simply picking up a phone and calling
a hotel or restaurant is very generic. When I can text
a GM of a facility, I can be more effective and make
things that are unavailable become available.
QWhat are some of the more elaborate things you have arranged for meeting groups?
Three examples come to mind.
I once placed a group front row for the World Cup
finals in Brazil.
I’ve also had a high-profile corporate executive and
his senior team backstage at the Oscars. Having the
opportunity to meet your favorite celebrity and actually spend time with them as opposed to seeing them
walk by or even paying for a meet-and-greet, which is
basically a cattle call where you get ushered in for a
quick photo, is priceless — especially when you are
talking about dozens of celebs in the same space. My
client still raves about that night.
I have had a Grammy-award-winning artist perform
a private concert for a corporate group in a huge suite
in Las Vegas. The tricky part, beyond the budget, for
something like that is putting it all together. From the
airfare and transportation to ensuring the client follows the artist’s requests, there are a lot of details.
It’s not as simple as cutting a check or transferring
funds into an account. There is a tremendous amount
of dialogue and negotiating that takes places behind
the scenes. That’s where our relationships with artists as well as talent managers provide us with extra
Because we are personal friends with these people,
they know they aren’t going blindly into an event.
That goes a long way toward making something like
QWhat are the major challenges you and The Kess Group have to overcome day-to-day?
The biggest challenge is always finding exactly what
the client wants, getting approval for the budget,
and then executing it flawlessly. For all those events,
people may not want to spend the money. Often, corporate opportunities have many, many loopholes that
need to be handled.