The Real Journeys story started in 1954 when a young couple, Les and Olive Hutchins, bought the Manapouri-Doubtful Sound Tourist Company, a tiny company taking visitors into the practically unexplored Doubtful Sound. Regular transport services were non-existent, supplies and suppliers were hundreds of miles away. The pair were running a tourism venture in one of the wildest and most remote areas of the world - fulfilling their dream of sharing the spectacular wilderness with others.
The early years were fraught with challenges, including the construction of the Manapouri Power Station halting operations. Keenly interested in Fiordland National Park issues, Les and Olive Hutchins joined fellow conservationists in the successful fight against the proposed raising of Lakes Te Anau and Manapouri for power generation. As their company expanded, they began directing some of the profits into conservation activities. This practice has been expanded over the years to support many conservation initiatives.
By the mid-1960s the excursions to Doubtful Sound resumed and the Hutchins’ acquired Fiordland Travel Ltd with its Te Anau Glowworm Caves and Milford Track lake transport operations. In 1969 the company established its Queenstown base by purchasing and restoring the otherwise doomed vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw.
In 1970, the company began running cruises in world-renowned Milford Sound after successfully challenging the government monopoly on tourism in the fiord.
Over the next three decades, Real Journeys (rebranded in 2002 to recognise its reach beyond Fiordland) established operations and partnerships across the southern regions of New Zealand that focused on improving the experiences offered to visitors and increasing accessibility to the spectacular environment.
About Les Hutchins
Les Hutchins had a lifetime interest and involvement in Fiordland National Park and conservation issues. In 1973 Les was named one of the founding Guardians of the Lakes and held that position for 26 years. He spent 12 years on the New Zealand Conservation Authority and was a founding patron of the New Zealand National Parks and Conservation Foundation. Les was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 1998 and made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to conservation and tourism in 2002.
His contribution to this special part of New Zealand continues through the Leslie Hutchins Conservation Foundation (established in 1994). Les passed away on 19 December 2003 at the age of 79 leaving the company in the capable hands of his wife Olive and son Bryan.
Les was also posthumously inducted into the Fairfax Media New Zealand Business Hall of Fame in 2011 for his pioneering tourism work.