Kaya Man – Visit Pensacola

Kaya Man

Destination Sales Manager, Visit Pensacola

Pensacola, Fla.

Describe your job.

I serve as the sales representative to the group and leisure market to generate a positive economic impact for Escambia County. Every day is a new day and new obstacles. I catch up with the team on what’s going on and what’s happening, then I hit the computer to answer emails, follow up on leads, and check the status of RFPs. I always double-check all my upcoming events and shows to facilitate the staff and logistics, then head to community meetings to stay in the know about what’s going on in Pensacola.

What made you choose the meetings and events industry?

I love the hospitality industry, which includes a lot of multitasking and high-energy situations. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my clients excited about a meeting or event they have worked so hard for others to enjoy; being a part of that gratitude fills my heart.

How did you get started, and what got you from there to today?

I started in the kitchen with my dad. Growing up, I always helped my dad with catering events. He worked so hard, so I helped just to spend time with him. I have always looked up to him for all the hard work and passion he had for catering and cooking. When my dad passed in 2009, I vowed to keep his legacy alive. I kept the catering business going while working a full-time job and going to college.

I began working my way up from the restaurant industry to management, but I kept my event business. In 2017, my daughter was born, and I had to choose between my fully loaded work schedule in the food and beverage industry or time for my daughter. Of course, I decided to make more time for my daughter, leading me to a new career with the CVB. I love it because I’m helping to bring success to my community and many of my friends and colleagues in the hospitality industry. My early experience in catering and restaurant management gave me the insight I needed to work with meeting and event planners in a destination marketing organization.

How do you keep up with industry trends, changes, and cutting-edge developments?

The top information sources for me are educational sessions at professional development conferences. I also stay informed by keeping on top of what the clients ask of our partners, as well as following social media groups and attending conferences.

What essential skills should every industry professional possess?

The most critical skills and abilities a person in this profession needs include patience, practicing teamwork, being a good listener, and being able to multitask.

What is the philosophy or approach to work that gets you through stressful times?

I tell myself: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. At other times, I’ll think: No matter how big the problem may look, remember bigger problems exist.

What is the best professional advice you ever received, and what advice do you have for others in the industry?

One saying that has helped me is: Take one bite at a time; never bite off more than you can chew. For others, I’d say teamwork is key to your success, the team’s success, and the organization’s success.

Describe your biggest professional success.

After working for Visit Pensacola as the partner relations manager for a year and a half, I grew the organization’s private and community partnerships by 80 percent. Two months later, COVID-19 hit, and I was the only one left running the sales team. In addition to the pandemic, there was an act of terrorism on our Naval base and a hurricane that devastated our community. During this time, a new CEO for Visit Pensacola recognized my work and offered me the destination sales manager position. I am doing that while also handling the sales and services director responsibilities and building back our team.

Share an anecdote about a meeting or event that did not go as planned and how you handled it.

When it comes to weddings, one must always be ready for the unexpected and have a backup plan. In my case, there was a wedding, and we needed help locating the priest minutes before the ceremony. However, I knew we had an attendee who was a priest, and I got him to the front to start the ceremony. Right then, the priest booked for the wedding showed up—he was late because he lost track of time mowing his yard!

What is the best part of your job?

I travel to beautiful places and share all the wonderful things about Pensacola with the world. When it’s over, I get to return home to paradise. Pensacola has a vibe that brings happiness to your soul. We have beautiful white sandy beaches, emerald-green water, an incredible natural environment, and beauty everywhere you look. It is the perfect setting to wake up to, and I feel privileged to be able to do the work that I love in this beautiful setting.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Spending quality time with my family will always be my priority. I spend many days on the beach surfing, fishing, floating, eating, or just watching sunsets. Tennis is where I get my frustration out and exercise. But nothing beats cooking a meal for others to enjoy and hanging out listening to stories.

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