Les Hutchins' South Island tourism operations began modestly back in 1954 with an 18km walking track, two mall old boats, two huts and a dilapidated lodge at Doubtful Sound. He went on to purchase Fiordland Travel, the Te Anau Glow-worm Caves and the Milford Track lake transport operations. A few years later he bought the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw in Queenstown and in 1970 began running cruises on the world renowned Milford Sound after gaining the governments tourism monopoly there.
Hutchins had a life-long dedication to conservation. In 1973 Les Hutchins was named one of the founding Guardians of the Lakes and held that position for 26 years and spent 12 years on the New Zealand Conservation Authority. He was a founding patron of the New Zealand National Parks and Conservation Foundation and was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to conservation and tourism.