‘It’s Really Jazzing Me’

Gary Schirmacher said that he never expected to be heading up a startup, but his new role as CEO of Total Hospitality Industry Solutions offers new ways to demonstrate the value of the events industry.

Author: Michelle Russell       

Gary Shirmacher

Gary Shirmacher speaks in a video created for the School of Hospitality at Metropolitan State University-Denver. He was recently named CEO of THIS, Total Hospitality Industry Solutions.

Industry veteran Gary Schirmacher, who most recently served as senior vice president, industry presence and strategic development, Experient, a Maritz Global Events Company, was recently named CEO of THIS, Total Hospitality Industry Solutions. Convene caught up with Schirmacher this week to learn more about his new role at the new company.

Tell us about THIS.

Total Hospitality Industry Solutions has been around for about four months now. We’re a startup, founded by Ray Ezelle, who serves as president. Ray has a long background in hospitality, including more than 15 years with a variety of hotels, then leading the meeting division for Collinson Media & Events (now Connect Meetings), serving as EVP for Connections Housing, and most recently as the vice president of sales and services for a destination management company. And just like me was furloughed.

Our services really start with sales support, and because of the fact that COVID happened, we have some outstanding sales professionals working for us. We’re working with a lot of smaller market DMOs, tertiary destinations, franchise hotel companies, independent suppliers, associations, different event organizers, to really help them with solicitation, for whether it be an event or other needs.

Another one of our services is data analytics and database cleansing, which includes making calls to see if contacts are still employed or who is the most appropriate contact at organizations. We also have partnered with Chris Meyer Global, formerly with Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, to launch a consulting program focused around the Prosperity Triangle, a business model that connects economic development to business tourism.

Our core value of our company is stewardship. Our logo is the ancient symbol of stewardship from medieval times. In a post-COVID world, it is more important than ever for all in our industry to be good stewards with our time, people, and resources.

What does stewardship mean to you, or what does stewardship mean to THIS?

So for us, we feel like we need to be good stewards to our clients, number one. Helping them find their way. But most importantly, we need to find ways to help our clients be good stewards in their community — we work with so many DMOs and different companies that have a community beyond just their company. So for instance, a small DMO may have 15,000 people in their community that depend on tourism, meetings, and hospitality. So how can we help them embrace this concept of being good stewards within their community, especially at a difficult time like this? That really is our core value of finding ways to help people help folks beyond their borders or their company.

Can you give us an example?

When you look at smaller destination, they might have 40,000 people that live in the community, but maybe 8,000 depend on hospitality, tourism, travel, whatever their small business might be in that community, or they might just be people working for a larger company, but they live in that community. How can we help these communities thrive and be true to themselves? Too many times consultants come into a situation and they try to help people be who they’re not. We had a customer DMO — a town of 30,000 people. They wanted to host the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association’s International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE) that’s always held in Atlanta.

At smaller tertiary destinations, there’s more involvement in these kinds of discussions by members of city council who were pushing for this business. But the destination’s biggest space was 8,000 square feet. So how do you help the DMO become a good steward for their community and understand really, okay, here’s who you are, and here’s who you can be. But you know what? With an 8,000 square foot ballroom, you’re never going to get the IPPE.

Now that destination is home to a lot of successful farmers. So how can we help that organization connect with the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association? And maybe they can create a totally different thing — it’s not a convention. Maybe it’s some kind of experiential excursion.

Like a field trip.

Exactly, that they never thought of. And something that their members in certain instances might really value. Our company connect those dots. Our goal is to really help people be better stewards, making stewardship a hospitality habit.

And with these destinations, they need all the help they can to show their stakeholders what a great industry this is. We want to help destinations help their stakeholders understand how important this business is to so many people, not only in your community, but in the world.

In the past, I’ve worked mostly with larger DMOs. And now, as I work with these smaller tertiary destinations — helping them be good stewards for their local communities — it’s really jazzing me.