Most customers do not call someone like Kess to save money, they call for access, whether it is to see the hottest DJ, have the best table at an in nightclub, to score a coveted reservation, or get tickets to a sold out show.
This past weekend was one of the worst possible times for the average traveler to visit Las Vegas. The city is coming off several consecutive years of record breaking tourism, with 42 million visitors last year – a full million more than the record breaking attendance in 2014. It seems the city is always bustling these days, but few times are more jammed – or more overpriced – than Memorial Day Weekend.
“It’s the biggest weekend for tourists, worse than New Years. Everything is grossly overpriced, from rooms to nightclub tables, at least double the regular price,” said Manny Kess, principal of The Kess Group, one of the highest profile of several VIP handler firms or concierges that flourish in a city where who you know is often more important than your bankroll. “These days everyone wants a pool party or cabana, but there are a finite number of hot ‘it’ pools, and business people want them to impress clients, and it gets to the point where you have to tell this 24-year old grad student trying to enjoy his one weekend in Vegas that he has to commit to spending eight or nine grand just to do a pool party. I get a lot of Australian clients who come in the summer because it’s their winter, and they don’t know our holidays, but they are flexible, so just by steering them from one week to the next, I can save them thousands on their vacation.”
Most people think of Vegas VIP services as something that costs more money, not less, and this can certainly be the case, but with local expertise there are a surprising number of ways they can save you. “Anyone who is not from Vegas, especially visitors from overseas, wants to do to a helicopter tour, like 90% of the people who call us. They see these ads for the Grand Canyon, but the cheapest heli-trip there is $449 per person, and the most popular one, the one that actually lands there for 30 minutes, is at least $650. That’s two or three grand with the wife and kids, and that shocks a lot of people. But at night they do these 15-minute flights over the Strip for $99, and today it’s all about selfies, Instagram, so they get the helicopter experience, the captured ‘memories,’ and the aerial view and it costs the whole family less than one person would usually pay, and they love it when we suggest it, because most people don’t know about it.”
Most customers do not call someone like Kess to save money, they call for access, wether it is to see the hottest DJ, have the best table at an in nightclub, to score a coveted reservation at a top tier but small restaurant like Joel Robuchon, or get tickets to a sold out show. His firm can do aeverything from soup to nuts for a Vegas vacations, booking hotel rooms and arranging transportation, but their bread and butter is pool parties, restaurant reservations, shows, day and night clubs, and “hosted entry,” a Vegas euphemism meaning that if he puts you on the list you skip the wait at the nightclub door, which can run 2-3 hours for unconnected guests.
“Everyone thinks you can just call a restaurant here and get a reservation like in other cities, but that’s not the case at all. More than 40 million people come each year, and many of them want to eat at the same handful of top restaurants – you cannot just get an 8PM reservation at SW (the acclaimed steakhouse in the Wynn Las Vegas) on a Friday night, and that is almost always the case. Even people who call their American Express Centurion Concierge can’t get those. But I can. In Las Vegas it is all relationship based.”
PaceVegas.com named Kess one of the “Seven Influencers You Must Know To Do Business in Vegas,” and noted that his clientele includes numerous NBA, NFL and NHL All-Stars. Viva Vegas TV named him Best VIP Host in the city last year. Super Bowl winner James Ihedigbo of the Baltimore Ravens put it more succinctly: “Manny holds the key to this city. The Kess Group is second to none.” NFL Network analyst and three-time Pro Bowler (Jacksonville Jaguars) Maurice Jones-Drew said, “Since working with them my Vegas experience has been beyond my wildest dreams.”
Fess for these services can be surprisingly low, especially if you just want cut and dried transactions, like a restaurant table, or to be put on the VIP list at nightclub, for Kess might charge as little as a $100 service fee. Most business is repeat and by referral, but typically the first time a customer calls, an agent will discuss what they are looking to do on their stay, the number of people and approximate budget, and they’ll propose an itinerary. “A typical visit might be looking for a show Thursday followed by a nightclub after, a pool party Friday, and a nice dinner Saturday. A lot of times a guest has their heart set on a particular hot nightclub, but they do not realize the prices change dramatically from one night to the next based on the DJ. I’ve got ten guys from Omaha coming for a bachelor party. They told me they want to do two dinners, a nightclub – either XS or Hakkasan – and a pool party. They have nine thousand to spend on that, and it sounds like a lot, but on a busy weekend here it is not, and prices can double from one night to the next. So by flipping the nightclub night around and changing the pool party venue, I got them everything they want within their budget.”
Even people who call their American Express Centurion Concierge can’t get the most coveted reservations; but I can. In Las Vegas it’s all relationship based.
Where the costs really start to as up is when a form like the Kess Group provides a VIP Excort, a nice way of saying hand holding. “Some people just want me to set up a dinner reservation or a guest list, and that’s a lot cheaper, but many of my clients are higher end, and they want me to be with them, to walk them into the nightclub and sit at their table. One of the busiest weekends of the year no one knows about is the Real Estate convention, it’s smaller than Consumer Electronics or the Car Show but they make up for it in spending. The cheapest pool cabanas that weekend are $25,000 and one of my clients got one to entertain guests, so he hired someone from my firm to stand at the pool entrance, greet the guests and escort them to the cabana. That’s when the costs start to climb.” While many of his clients are individual leisure travelers, Kess also does a lot of corporate groups, business entertaining and events. Including venue takeovers.
The huge Consumers Electronics Show sells out just about every hotel room in town, and is infamous for disrupting the city, but for those seeking the highest and experiences, the Real Estate convention is worse, according to Kess. Form mainstream tourism, Memorial Day is closely followed by Labor Day, and even events like the National Finals Rodeo and NCAA March Madness can throw the city into a hotel shortage tailspin. “There are four or five other key weekends to avoid that not everyone knows about,” said Kess. Whether you want to skip these altogether or you insist on having your way during one, it might make sense to employ some local knowledge and expertise. Besides the Kess Group, Red Carpet VIP and Millionaire’s Concierge are two other firms that have been acclaimed by the prominent media.