New Manager Admits Having ‘A Soft Spot’ For Sea Life Park

Sea Life Park's new general manager Valerie King. Photo from Becker Communications.

Sea Life Park’s new general manager Valerie King. Photo from Becker Communications.

Birds, cattle, submarines, battleships — all are equally familiar to Valerie King, who has worked just about everywhere in the hospitality industry over the last 30 years. And now, she’s found a new home as general manager of Sea Life Park.

A Kunia resident, King explained that she started her career in the hotel business but eventually gravitated toward visitor venues. One of her first jobs was as promotions manager for now-closed Paradise Park, and she also spent several years with Atlantis Attractions. “I find that when people are on vacation and visiting attractions, they’re just absolutely having a great time,” she said.

Though she was very happy as director of marketing and business development at Kualoa Ranch, King couldn’t pass up the chance to work at the Makapu’u attraction, home of the wholphin, penguins, sharks, sea turtles and sea lions.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for Sea Life Park. Growing up in Hawaii, I remember going to it when I was younger, going on excursions. I really liked all their education programs. Kids are really excited when they get here; it’s a great place to tell a story about Hawaiian marine animals and conservation.”

Her vision for the future of the park, which marks its 50th anniversary in November, is one that is more reflective of Hawaii. “If you walk around the park now, it looks like a great, fun place, and you see a lot of blues and yellows — and if you just glance at it, it looks like it could be in San Diego or Florida or someplace else.”

King wants to bring a “more Hawaiian touch” back to the park, focusing its message and look on what makes Hawaiian marine life special, as well as emphasizing its cultural ties. She also believes keeping that local touch in any visitor attraction is crucial to its success.

“It’s important for us to really share what Hawaii is about. It may sound cheesy, but, of course, the aloha spirit and the way people present themselves — visitors appreciate that.”

She emphasized, however, that it isn’t all about catering to tourists. A successful venue appeals to both visitors at home and from far away.

“Here, we have a huge amount of kama’aina who have annual passes and enjoy coming out all the time. It’s one thing to be something for just visitors. But the industry needs to embrace everybody and welcome everybody. I think we’ve done a good job at that.

“Hopefully the kama’aina feel the same way,” she laughed.