Creating Meaningful Travel Experiences

by Elysian Magazine

How Veronica Kohlbecker And Hershey Gargash Are Creating Meaningful Travel Experiences with
“What A Wonderful World”

By Allyson Portee

There are often two sides to glamorous events like fashion shows and red-carpet events. There’s the side of what the event is about and then there’s the prestigious side. Say, for instance, it’s a high-end brand’s fashion show. The purpose of the event is to show off the latest collection, that’s one side. But the other side is the glamour, the prestige of making an event what it is. Veronica Kohlbecker is a pro at making the heart of an event what it is with her longtime expertise in concierge services. She has made experiences like the Cannes Film Festival meaningful for her clients by in the singular galas and dinners she organizes.

Today, Veronica and her business partner, Hershey Gargash, operate What A Wonderful World, an online guide to the best in travel and lifestyle. But before divining into what the duo are doing now, it’s important to know their early journey of encountering the 2007 recession in the luxury industry, while especially for Veronica, encountering immoral requests from their clients and stepping away from that business, to launch a passion: their travel company.

Hershey: Veronica founded a concierge company, The Anonymous in 2009, post the recession. We met years earlier in 2005 through a mutual friend in London. We were in similar circles and our paths had crossed. I had a background in fashion, beauty, travel and lifestyle journalism, and I have been a fashion and style editor for celebrity magazines like OK! in London since 2008. Before that, I was a fashion and beauty writer and stylist. I’ve worked for magazines like Sunday Times Style, Elle, The Harrods Magazine, W and WWD. Both Veronica and I had very similar lifestyles. I was traveling a lot for work during the first 15 years of my career and was visiting fashion week shows and attending music and industry events all over the world. I was also writing about fashion week shows in Paris, New York, Milan and London and doing a lot of backstage coverage, working on trend reports, interviewing key models, brand faces, celebrities, designers, and make-up artists.

Veronica: My former events company specialized in TV and fashion show production. I have produced fashion shows for Viviane Westwood, Naomi Campbell for Rosa Cha, Coven, University of the arts, Julian Macdonald, Jean-Paul Gaultier and De Grisogono, to name a few. I traveled between Paris, New York, Miami, Brazil, and London to participate in all the fashion weeks. During this period, the team and I were also managing the process of moving large groups of VIPs around the world, accommodating them, doing the job of a concierge without realizing it. We were chartering yachts for events and private jets, organizing gala dinners, flying out supermodels with their footballer boyfriends, hosting the owners of football clubs, accommodating every wish of demanding designers, managing diplomatic travel with guest politicians and royalty, organizing celebrity guest lists, booking celebrity stylists and dressing celebrities for the front row shows.

Then the recession hit in 2007. It was a hard blow to the business and budgets of $940,000 ceased to exist anymore. But, we had a glamorous office with 10 employees and a lease agreement for another four years. I felt I couldn’t let the people down in the business, so I had to adapt with the times. Therefore, in 2009 I founded a concierge company, The Anonymous having adopted a concierge business from an existing company in the US looking after many US celebrities. They were also struggling with the climate. We marketed the memberships to our VIP clients, and they all jumped on board as there were few competitors around at the time, apart from Quintessentially and Centurion concierge service.

We were in the era of no Airbnb, no incentives, no gold cards, let alone red cards on airlines and the ability to get upgrades with airlines without a good travel agent. It was very hard to book a private jet back then, let alone get an airport open without knowing the right airport director. The company had many great successes, and we had a rolling waiting list of 100+ clients as we could only service 100 clients at a time with a team of 38 staff.

Veronica:  I can barely remember all the events I created and organized. We were producing on average 8 events a month from a cocktail to a gala dinner. We organized parties for big celebrities on an Omega yacht for Team Lotus F1 at Monaco Grand Prix. We hired villas in Cannes to host parties for designer D Squared to launch their sunglasses collection. Every supermodel imaginable was there.  We put together Naomi Campbell’s birthday party in the South of France.   My biggest hobby in the world was meeting interesting people and learning about their lives and how they got to the top. I was privileged to meet so many incredible people in my career from so many different walks of life. It taught me that it does not matter where you come from you can always achieve what you dream of. A therapist once stopped working with us because she told me I was sending her clients with Limitless expectations, and she couldn’t fathom or understand their worlds.

The job also meant we had to help with the logistics for any fancy glamorous events, like getting celebrities from a yacht in Monaco, on a speed boat to the heliport then onto a helicopter to a car, and finally dressing them in the car before they stepped on the red carpet. We even helped with celebrity matchmaking. Any well-known celebrity/ politician couldn’t just walk into a bar to meet someone, we had to work with top agencies working to find love for those at the top who don’t have the same opportunities to meet someone on a romantic level and we ended with more good matches and with many marriages and families to show for all the efforts.

It was also really nice to be there for the clients who went through difficult periods in their lives. I dealt with security issues when a client woke me up at 5 AM to tell me someone had been listening to their conversation, when we went in with our security teams, we found hidden cameras and listening devices throughout their house. We also helped some sheiks through rehab, trying to get them out of their drug addictions. We’ve also helped the wives of high-level individuals get through a divorce after being at the top and left. Additionally, we saw many businesses achieve great success only to fall into despairing debt.

In 2015, Veronica was bit by a spider, took ill, and was forced to close her concierge business.

Veronica: I got bitten on my leg by a rare poisonous spider days before my birthday. It was actually the second deadliest spider in the world. I was sitting in a restaurant on Phi Phi Island, in Thailand and although it took five days for the poison to hit me, I ended up in and out of hospital for three months with full blood poisoning and unable to walk. It also took another six months to fully recover. We had wanted to sell the business, but with the crash of the Ruble in 2015 many of our Russian clients (or those doing business with Russians) quit and we were not able to continue with the memberships, so it took a toll.

There were also parts of the business I didn’t like which caused me to close other parts of my business. As much as people love to gossip and associate concierge with guns, girls and drugs, we had one important rule that was to cancel anyone’s membership who requested this from us. The policy was and always remains, not to conduct illegal business and more importantly unethical business. At one point, I realized simply assisting to execute the wishes of wealthy people was not enough for me morally. We were once asked to remove homeless people from outside the George V hotel in Paris with a €1000 tip or deal with gifting the multiple wives and girlfriends of politicians.

So, the two women decided to create something unique together…

Hershey:  Veronica and I had been leading very similar lifestyles, but ultimately, I was a fashion and beauty editor, and reporter. Whilst Veronica was managing events and looking after VIP clients.

I left London in 2015 and moved to Dubai permanently and it was just at the point where we wanted to create something together. With both our individual experiences, we decided to launch What a Wonderful World (WAWW). We wanted to create a travel magazine – a specialist guide to the world. With WAWW guides, we’ll help you visit some of the most unusual places, luxurious remote locations, spectacular luxury destinations, hidden travel gems and specialty dining concepts and exclusive members clubs. We’ve even written about innovative guides including a full guide to space travel, which will inspire you to learn more about the best companies to explore Space with.

We cover wellness concepts, sustainable travel, leading travel photographers, world-class restaurants and Michelin-star dining. The purpose of WAWW is to have the latest guides to the world from not only an elite and luxury perspective but from a philanthropic and sustainable approach. We want to restore people’s confidence and faith in travel since the 2020 pandemic and our aim is not just to help the economies of countries but also to give readers and viewers the best tips and advice to make their experiences joyfully memorable. Having been advisors and go-to people for so many years, we want to create an approachable and friendly platform that hasn’t really been done before.

WAWW’s concierge service, The Escapist, is also under our umbrella. It’s headed by Matt Piault who has over 12 years working with VIP’s and a long list of HNWI. With WAWW The Escapist, you can discover the hidden islands of West Papua on board a superyacht, heli-ski around the globe or explore the summits of the Himalayas guided by adventurer Johan Ernst Nilson. These are only a few of the adventures The Escapist has to offer. Whether you strive to walk on the red carpets of the world’s most prestigious events, or if you’re looking for a private jet to charter on demand, we’ll make it happen!

Veronica: We have produced six years of The Escapist adventure weeks in Montenegro, where we took my former concierge clients into incredible off-the-beaten-track adventures to discover Montenegro and the surrounding Balkan countries. Throughout the years in Montenegro, we organized marina launches, property events, organized weddings, gala dinners, birthday parties and product launches. My concierge network was so interested in Montenegro, so we ended up hosting over 350 clients every summer, booking berths and yachts and villas, which ended up with many clients buying properties and investing into businesses, bringing their yachts, friends, hosting corporate events, large scale weddings, press trips, not to mention music videos and celebrity shoots. We had personally been a part of the movement to help to develop a country in such a short period with the connections and network we have.

Veronica and Hershey are two women showing the world they can take it on with their go-to and can-do attitudes and experiences.  Although they create some of the world’s most glamorous events, they are also focused on a lifestyle that brings them relaxation and pleasure.  And along the way, they are providing meaningful clients with experiences that will last them a lifetime.

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