Name: Tisha Maraj
Title: Catering and Event Sales Manager
Organization: Island Beachside Resort
Location: Fort Walton Beach, Florida
Birthplace: Allentown, Pennsylvania
Education: High school, continuing education courses
• Island Beachside Resort, sales manager (1999–2004)
• Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center, sales manager (2004–2019)
• The Island Beachside Resort, catering and events sales manager (2019–present)
Tisha Maraj, catering and events sales manager at The Island Resort in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, knew from the time she was a child that she was destined to live near the beach. But growing up at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, that idea seemed far off.
“My first word was probably beach — I wanted to live at the beach for as long as I can remember,” said Maraj. “After high school, my best friend and I left Pennsylvania and traveled around the country together.”
Maraj and her friend worked at a hotel bar at home in Pennsylvania, so they continued in that line of work as they made their way around the Southeast, living in places like Atlanta and Virginia Beach. They finally landed in Destin, Florida, where a friend’s parents offered them a place to stay for the summer.
“We did banquets, worked the front desk, bartended — we worked at a lot of different hotels,” said Maraj. “When we drove to Destin, we drove all night from Atlanta and hit the beach at about 6 a.m. just as the sun was coming up. I put my feet in that white sand, and I said, ‘I’m gonna live here forever.’”
Maraj quickly found a job at a newly opened Olive Garden in Fort Walton, working as a server and bartender. That led to a role within the company opening locations across the country for the next decade.
“All that time I really missed being in a hotel,” said Maraj. “I got a job at The Island Resort in 1999, which was a Ramada at the time. I was bartending at the cave bar with all the waterfalls — it was amazing!”
Shortly after, the director of sales tapped her to replace the sales manager.
“Joe, the sales director, was an absolutely amazing person — he took me under his wing and taught me everything about how to be a good sales manager in a hotel,” said Maraj. “I learned a lot from him — he was a great teacher.”
After four years, wanting to “spread her wings a little bit,” Maraj made a move to the newly opened Fort Walton Beach Convention Center across the street, working as the sales coordinator. She worked alongside the local convention and visitors bureau to sell both the convention center and the destination overall. She attended Small Market Meetings conferences, where she gave her first presentations, hosted breakfasts and connected with people highlighting her destination.
“I loved everything about it,” she said. “I stayed at the convention center for about 15 years. But once you’re a hotel person, it’s in your blood. So I came back to the hotel about four years ago. My whole career has pretty much been here and across the street.”
Along the way, Maraj got certified as a CMP and has taken certification-oriented management courses. She also is a certified yoga instructor and teaches yoga to the resort’s guests.
“Sometimes I pinch myself — I don’t know how I get to live at the beach, teach yoga, look at the sand and chat with hotel guests,” she said. “From the first time I came here, I fell in love.”
Tips from Tisha Maraj
• Be a lifelong learner — strive to gain new skills and improve existing ones.
• Keep a positive attitude, serve people joyfully and increase your gratitude.
• Never give up!