Tributes have been paid to a businessman described as a “giant of the tourism industry within Wales” who died at his home in Llanegryn last week.
Ian Rutherford, until recently the owner of the award-winning King Arthur's Labyrinth, Corris Mine Explorers and Corris Craft Centre, near Machynlleth, was 77. He leaves his wife, Catrin and two children, Tesni and Tristan and four grandchildren.
Last December, Mr Rutherford joined an exclusive group when he was made a life member of MWT Cymru at the company’s virtual annual meeting.
MWT Cymru is an independent company that represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and Southern Snowdonia.
Having been involved in the Mid Wales tourism industry for nearly 50 years, Mr Rutherford was a former vice chairman and interim chief executive of MWT Cymru, also known as Mid Wales Tourism, based in Machynlleth.
He arrived in Mid Wales in 1972 to take over as general manager of Llechwedd Slate Caverns, Blaenau Ffestiniog, having previously worked for a firm of accountants and consultants in London.
In 1993, he bought Corris Craft Centre, which had only six studios and a café at the time. Next, he decided to use his Engineering Degree and interest in King Arthur and ancient mythology to convert the abandoned underground slate mine into King Arthur’s Labyrinth visitor attraction which opened in 1994.
Mr Rutherford later added four additional craft studios, Corris Mine Explorers, Lost Legends of The Stone Circle and the Bwtri Welsh food and drink shop. Wishing to retire, he completed the sale of his business shortly before he died.
Shirley Owen, Corris Craft Centre’s marketing manager, said: “Ian was passionate about the high quality of tourism in Wales. He dedicated his time to the local, regional and national tourism industry where his bright ideas, dedication, drive and wit touched the hearts of so many.
“Ian has left behind the most wonderful legacy which will live on for many more people to enjoy.”
Mr Rutherford was involved with a forerunner to MWT Cymru, the Mid Wales Tourism Council, which became Mid Wales Tourism (MWT) in 1991. He then served as MWT’s chief executive for six months during the reorganisation of the Wales Tourist Board.
He had been involved with MWT since it was established and served as a director for many years before standing down last year.
Responding to the life membership award in December, Mr Rutherford said: “I am really pleased that I have been honoured in such a way by my peers in the tourism industry. I have been involved in the tourism in Mid Wales for nearly 50 years and have been a great supporter of the industry working together.”
Former MWT Cymru chairman, Anne Lloyd Jones, a fellow life member and a personal friend of Mr Rutherford and his family, said: “Ian was such a lovely man, a real gentleman and a tower of strength who always gave sound advice.
“ Mid Wales Tourism might not have survived without his leadership as interim chief executive when I was chairman. He will be very sadly missed.”
Current MWT Cymru chairman Rowland Rees-Evans added: “Ian was a giant in the tourism industry. I always appreciated his sense of humour, advice, knowledge and experience within the industry.
“Ian had been to the very top of the industry and had developed a good business. His passing is a big loss to the industry and especially to MWT Cymru.”
Val Hawkins, MWT Cymru’s chief executive, said: “Ian made a massive contribution to MWT Cymru and Mid Wales tourism in general over many years. I shall miss his support and wise words. Our thoughts are with Catrin and family at this very sad time.”
The late Ian Rutherford, a giant of the tourism industry within Wales.