Randy King was destined for a life of adventure, while creating memorable experiences for all.
Randy King, the president and owner of Seawind Tours & Travel Inc., has visited so many countries that he stopped counting at 120.
But King’s greatest journey cannot be measured in physical distance — it is more about how far he has come from where he started.
King was born into a working-class family in Pittsburg, California. His mom, Diane Palmer, worked in a veterinary hospital and his dad, William “Bill” King, was a mechanic.
“I came from nothing. I grew up poor, but my parents were extremely generous with what they had,” he says. “They wanted better for their kids, no question.”
Trips, especially far-away ones, were not a usual part of the King family dynamic — which instead emphasized values like love of family, hard work and making sure to put something away for a rainy day.
It was that ethic that helped King survive the pandemic, which he said caused travel to “fall off a cliff” and saw his staff reduced by about half.
Thankfully, King says travel has turned a corner. He and his husband Oat are working on plans for a trip to Egypt in November, the company’s first major group excursion since COVID.
“It sold out in two hours,” he notes. King said he is excited to see travel finally beginning to recover. After all, he’s been passionate about travel since he was a 17-year-old, who got bitten by the travel bug while organizing a high school senior class trip to Hawai‘i.
“I brought 100 classmates with me to Hawai‘i, which was my first flight,” he recalls. “I loved the planning and putting it all together and watching everyone have a good time.”
King returned to California where he earned a business degree from San Francisco State. He moved to Hawai‘i in 1985 and got a job working in a travel agency. By 1988, he and his business partner Kalena Lim had founded Seawind, a business made possible by a loan from Lim’s father, who believed in him.
“It was a lot of 15-to-20-hour days, 90-hour weeks were normal,” King recalls. “I’m a believer that it’s the small things that are important.”
King quickly developed a reputation for excellence, which did not go unnoticed. He was only in his mid-20s when Robert Long, founder of Longs Drugs, invited him to interview for the company’s corporate account.
“When I walked in, he said, ‘Are you really that young?’”
Despite his youth, King secured the contract, putting his company on the map and leading to the creation of an offshoot business DMC, which stands for Destination Management Concepts.
Eliane Long said she and her late husband Robert watched King evolve from a “teenager with a backpack”
into a “perfectionist” that they trusted enough to plan their personal travel, as well as destination weddings for a son and two daughters.
“You can count on Randy,” Long says. “He’s like family.”
Long adds when she wanted to take a solo trip to Cuba after her husband died, Randy went ahead of her and scouted the destination to make sure that she would be safe and that she would enjoy the trip.
King has built a reputation on creating high-end, highly customized exclusive trips.
It is difficult to surprise someone who has everything; however, King often manages to do the unexpected.
That’s why the company is a member of Virtuoso — a designation reserved for less than 1% of travel agencies, in America.
“I’m part of a vast network of contacts all over the world,” King says. “We assist each other.”
During one trip, King helped a client give his wife a very memorable 50th anniversary by going through the Holy See to book the couple a private tour of the Vatican’s art museum. King even arranged to have a painting that the man had purchased for his wife hanging on the wall during the tour.
Derek Hiyane, Seawind president, says King is known for his out-of-the-box thinking, creativity and persistence.
“We were doing a convention program in Japan where they are a little more conservative and had a hard time executing Randy’s vision for the florals, but he wouldn’t let it go simply because they weren’t used to doing what we’re used to producing,” he said. “He’s the idea guy. I figure out how to make it happen.”
While King cannot control life, he works to turn disappointments into opportunities. During the first beatification on Father Damien’s path to sainthood, the Pope fell and broke his hip and the trip to Rome was canceled three days before his group of 380 was slated to travel.
When King learned that the airline would not refund the airfares, he developed an entirely new itinerary, which included mass at St. Peter’s and a visit to Father Damien’s native Belgium.
“It was life-changing seeing the patients from Kalaupapa at the Vatican,” King said.
Sister Alicia Damien Lau, who is part of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, shares that in addition to organizing religious trips abroad, King has served the Kalaupapa community by organizing the four pilgrimages that Bishop Larry Silva makes there each year.
“The patients felt blessed to have their spiritual leader here on the grounds of our two Saints,” Lau says. “Randy is more than someone who organizes a tour. He is truly a friend that one can always count on to be there for you. He is a generous spirit.”
Not every trip comes out as King would have hoped. But he is there for his clients then, too.
Bob Bean, who has been traveling with Seawind for more than a decade, says King “goes above and beyond to meet your travel needs.”
“He’s got a great personality, a terrific sense of humor, and his whole staff is absolutely delightful to be with,” Bean adds. “There’s never a dull moment on our trips. And, when things go haywire, as they often will in a foreign country, he keeps his cool and he takes care of you.”
Bean recalls that on one trip “a gentleman passed away,” and King handled everything for the widow.
“If I had to come up with a complaint, I couldn’t do it, he’s that good,” says Bean.