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About Us

Who is running ITMB?
Click here to get all the dirt on the people behind International Travel Maps...

Our Cartographers:
Andrew Duggan, the late Kevin Healey, David Sami, Stephen Stringall, Eric Leinberger, Volker Schniepp, Frank Gubasta, Gary Sawyer, and our colleagues around the world who have been involved in so many of our map development projects, particularly, in Britain, Vietnam, Russia, and Germany.

Excursion to our past, present and future

ITMB Publishing Ltd., which is just a formal way of saying International Travel Maps and Books, began as a partnership between a frustrated Australian cartographer who loved South America (and railed against the inadequacies of maps of that continent) and a Canadian map distributor and retailer who was equally frustrated by the lack of maps related to South America for his customers. That was in 1983, when only cartographic houses in Europe published international travel maps and then only of areas of significant travel interest to Europeans. Thus, one could find excellent maps of Malta or the Costa Brava, but exceptionally little related to Africa or Asia, and virtually nothing of any part of Central or South America .

The two bright sparks who spent two weeks together in Vancouver planning to map an entire continent had no money, no resources, and no thought as to how (or by whom) these wonderful maps of South America would be published. It was assumed that established map publishers would love to have maps of the southern portion of the western hemisphere. The cartographer, Kevin Healey, and the businessman, Jack Joyce, blissfully unaware that what they were planning to do was deemed to be completely and utterly mad, if not impossible, self-published, with a very supportive British publisher, Bradt Publications, a two-sheet map of South America at 1:5,000,000 scale in 1985, using artwork previously published by Kevin privately. Sales provided funds to keep Kevin in peanut butter until the next title (North West South America at 1:4,000,000) was ready to be shown to European map publishers in 1986. Jack duly presented it to every cartographic publishing house in Europe in the hopes that one of them would 'snap it up'. The memory of the howls of derision and contempt expressed by these firms at the effrontery of two 'colonials' thinking they could make maps, remains fresh more than twenty-five years later.

Most publishers refused even to look at the artwork; one even turned his back on Jack while they were talking and blithely started a conversation with a colleague. Only one publisher, Rudiger Bosse of Ravenstein Verlag, was encouraging, although he too gave five very good and logical reasons explaining why ITM's attempt was foredoomed to fail, which he was big enough to retract five years later!

A bit more than a quarter of a century later, ITMB is one of the largest and most successful map publishing houses in the world, with more than 425 maps in print of countries and cities around the world, another 15 under development, and an average of one new map being published each week. This is a production rate unmatched by any other publishing house in the world.

Kevin was a brilliantly artistic cartographer whose titles transcended technical excellence and became sort of works of art. To this day, no one has approached his level of quality or detail - and I'm not just saying that as his publisher. His South America map was finally retired in 2005, after a quarter century in print, and still forms the base of the new digital map, which continues to be the best selling map of the continent in print. His version of Panama is still noted in the Lonely Planet guide book with regret that it is no longer available. His map of Canada's west coast Queen Charlotte Islands/Haida Gwaii revolutionized recreational mapping in Canada and is still the only map of these touristically-attractive islands in print. His artwork has all been copied on to digital format artwork, and updated, but his work is so accurate that, to this day, no one has surpassed his quality.

The key to ITMB's success was not a map of a continent, but the release of our first country map in 1990, Costa Rica , just as tourism to that country started to explode. Other beautiful creations followed, flowing from Kevin's fertile vision - Belize , Baja California , Mexico , BC's Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte Islands, Yucatan Peninsula , Ecuador , Galapagos Islands, Guatemala , Panama , Venezuela . Suddenly, ITMB was a recognized name and we found ourselves filling a niche that everyone else had ignored. ITMB began developing recreation maps for British Columbia , and buying artwork to prepare maps for Japan , Australia , Jamaica and other areas.

Perhaps because neither partner was sophisticated in the perceived realities of how maps were supposed to be prepared (the "It was good enough for my grandfather" mentality dominated map publishing at that time), or because they 'lucked' upon a business structure that made sense, ITMB started gathering a coterie of excellent independent cartographers and joint venture partners who shared ITMB's growing conviction that long-term success would come from a variety of firms sharing production costs and marketing under a common cover, regardless of ownership. Thus, ITMB worked out a joint venture agreement with the Government of Vietnam in 1992 that created a definitive travel map of that country, plus detailed regional maps of Central and northeastern VN, as well as beautiful maps of Hanoi, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon and the Mekong Delta, that have helped open the doors of tourism for that country. We now have our own production facility in Hanoi . We also worked closely with the governments of China and Chile to introduce their cartography to the world, and have formed working arrangements with a variety of firms in Europe to pbtain artwork that can be modified easily to our desired format.

Perhaps the story of ITMB's growth is getting ahead of itself. The actual reality is that ITMB struggled for years to produce and market maps of countries and cities that relatively few people visit. It took eleven years for ITMB to show a profit. Maps of Central and South American travel destinations have, after all, a limited and finite appeal. Also, they sell reasonably well from September to May, but sales are slow during the rest of the year. Kevin and Jack realized pretty quickly that ITMB needed something more than excellent Latino titles to bring in revenue during the 'off' season to stave off starvation.

In 1989, Bob Peart of British Columbia 's Outdoor Recreation Council approached Jack with the idea of preparing maps of selected areas of recreational significance in BC for publishing. The ORC would pay the development costs and own the films, but ITMB would publish the maps and market them. Jack arranged with two cartographers, David Sami and Gyan Verma, who prepared the artwork for the recreational maps, using material provided by the ORC and the provincial government. A dozen titles were produced before the ORC changed direction and stopped mapping. ITMB now publishes its own series of BC recreational titles, with such interesting titles as Bowron Lakes Canoe Route , Strathcona Plateau, Sunshine Coast , Whistler, and Tweedsmuir Park . We are now the second largest publisher of such maps in Canada.

Another Canadian cartographer, Eric Leinberger, joined us in 1996, producing our maps of Australia and New Zealand and a special series of maps interpreting Canada to map users - Western and Eastern Canada, Alberta/BC, Prairie Provinces , Northwest Territories , and Atlantic Canada. These titles have now largely been replaced by our own artwork, but Eric showed the way. We now have published maps of each province and territory in Canada (13), and several maps using Canada Map Office artwork, somewhat modified by ourselves to add travel-related information, and we are the third largest publisher of Canadian material in the world (after CMO and CCC).

In 1999, Andrew Duggan, of Toronto , joined us to focus on a new series - Cities of the World. His first two titles, Montevideo , Uruguay , and Buenos Aries , Argentina , led to Santiago de Chile, Istanbul , Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro , Tokyo , and a series of American city titles. ITMB is now the world's leading publisher of international world class cities, with 70 titles in print, most of them designed and kept up to date by Andrew to this day. The era of great city maps is probably passing, as technology enables individuals to find their way around urban areas using GPS and Google, but Andrew is hard at work mapping Caribbean islands for us, and has completed Barbados and Saint Lucia thus far.

Our joint venture with the Government of Vietnam has blossomed into an independent production facility in Hanoi managed by ITMB. Using half a dozen groups of dedicated cartographers, marvelous maps of exotic travel destinations in Africa and Asia are emerging regularly. We are now using GIS technology quite a bit in making maps and training our cartographers in Vietnam in the use of this new technology. We also bring promising young cartographers to Vancouver for extended training.

Stephen Stringall and Gary Sawyer joined us in 1993 to prepare a map of Alaska, which, by the way, has anchored our growing North American series of titles ever since. Stephen then concentrated on Africa country maps and created more than two dozen titles of this almost unmapped continent by 2000. His artwork has largely been replaced by more modern digital-format material, but the world owes him credit for spending a decade starting the attempt to map a continent single-handedly. ITMB has dedicated itself to the challenge of mapping Africa comprehensively, and 35 segments of this vast continent have been completed to date, most recently Angola and Algeria , and ITMB is the world's number one mapper of Africa . Gary also prepared the ITMB maps of Antarctica and of Antigua . Both cartographers have now moved on, but their influence continues to be felt.

Michaela Fritz, who produced ITMB's award-winning Rwanda/Burundi map, developed the title as a cartographic student in Germany and refined it for publishing by ITMB upon graduation. Torsten Claussen's map of Sierra Leone , also initially prepared as a graduating thesis, was re-worked by him into its current published format after graduating. Kevin Philip, of Zimbabwe , developed maps for ITMB of Swaziland, Bulawayo , and Harare .

GIS technology has revolutionized map production during the past seven years, necessitating the replacement of earlier artwork on a steady basis, but the work of the cartographer remains as vital as ever. If GPS mapping is ever to get out of the stick-figure simplistic style we see today in in-car navigation, computer-trained cartographers have a lifetime of work ahead. Also, many parts of the world remains poorly mapped; Africa in particular needs attention, but also the Caribbean, the South Pacific, and cities in Asia . ITMB still has an enormous amount of work ahead.

Frank Gubasta produced a series of maps on Florida for us, then went on to produce a series of maps on the three Guianas, then created our popular Puerto Rico map. We are now using US government GIS data to prepare a series of regional and State maps of various areas of the USA , most recently, our Mississippi River States map. We hope to publish interesting regional maps of New England , the Great Lakes Region, and the USA Southwest in the near future. Although the US and Canada have been well-mapped by others, touristically, many more maps need to be prepared for visitors to enjoy our treasures. As well, changing market needs are reducing the need for Rand McNally-type maps, and several significant mapping firms have fallen by the wayside or have downsized significantly. This is particularly notable in North America , but recently downsizings in European companies publishing maps has been quite noticable.

ITMB has now completed more than 30 years in business, and has evolved from a couple of incompetents naively deciding to map an entire continent to a professional cartographic publishing house mapping the world, one little piece at a time. We use the latest technology, do our level best to ensure that ITMB maps contain the most accurate and up to date information that can be published, and assertively stake out the entire world for mapping and marketing. We are aggressively mapping Europe and competing for market share with established European publishers. By the end of 2010, we had 46 titles related to Europe in print, more than any European publisher has, including such unique titles as Guernsey, Jersey, and Gibraltar . ITMB also has 56 titles on Latin America, more than any other publisher, 70 world class city maps, 30 titles on Asia, 35 on Africa, and another 75 on Canada , the USA , and Mexico , with more new and exciting titles being released each week.

The most painful aspect of ITMB has been left for the last. In 1994, having just completed a beautiful map of Venezuela , Kevin Healey died of heart failure at age 48. Not only was a brilliant cartographic talent cut off in his prime, he was the soul of ITMB and the mentor to the other cartographers. Furthermore, his intimate knowledge of South America and his focused concentration on productivity were legendary. As a business partner, his contribution was crucial to ITMB's success. The relationship joining Kevin and Jack transcended normal business conduct and his death had a profound affect on the structure of the company. Imagine, if you would, Gilbert carrying on without Sullivan, or Rolls without Royce (or, if you prefer, Abbott without Costello). The magic guiding ITMB was the unswerving conviction that what the team was producing was beautiful, accurate, and necessary. Whether or not it made money was not considered. For ten years, the firm's fundamental goal had been to map South America ; all else was seen as a means to that end. Suddenly, the one person who could realize that vision was gone. It was devastating on a personal and on a corporate level. It was left to Jack to restructure ITMB and carry on, somewhat sadly, the formidable challenge of mapping the world, with no one in place to fill the master's cartographic shoes.

A new master designer was found, expectedly, in Ha Noi. Thanks to Jack's interest in promoting travel to Vietnam to overcome the trauma caused by the war years in that country and it's effect on America, Jack visited that lovely but isolated (at that time) country in 1992 as a guest of the Vietnamese government, to advise them how to open the country to increased tourism, which at that time was about 2,000 per year. His assigned minder, Do Ngoc Lan, a lovely and talented cartographer and printer working in the government's cartographic printing office, proved to be irresistible. They married in Hanoi in 1995 after a long and difficult courtship and many trips to VN by Jack. She arrived in Vancouver in 1996 as a new Canadian immigrant to find that chaos reigned supreme in ITMB. Over the next decade, she gradually tamed the cartographic monster and developed production standards and digital equipment that now operate smoothly all over the world, whipping electronic files from Russia to Vancouver to Toronto to Vietnam and cowing printers from China to England to Korea with her superb grasp of print technology. Under her iron fisted softness, ITMB has matured and grown into a cartographic house of significance, producing an average of 75 new releases annually, and contributing artwork for guidebooks to Automobile Association, Bradt Publications, Time Out, and National Geographic. During her 15 year tenure (to date), ITMB has grown from 40 titles to 425.

ITMB is the most international cartographic house anywhere, with production and marketing arrangements operating in parts of the world that most of us don't even realize exist. Much of ITMB's success lies with Lan, with her ability to grasp the essence of a concept and develop it with teams of colleagues who hardly know what she is talking about into a finished piece of artwork that becomes a published map before anyone realizes what is happening. Lan and Kevin were on opposite mapping teams during the American/Vietnam War. They never met. How remarkable that two such strong-willed individuals seized a vision of mapping an entire world, an impossible concept exceeding anyone's grasp, and gradually realized it over a lifetime's dedication to interpreting the world using rapidly-changing technology. We aren't finished yet. Turkey took us five years to map, and we're still trying to finish off Equatorial Africa, and haven't started West Africa or most of the Caribbean !

David Sami initially assumed the responsibility of updating Kevin's eighteen titles and Volker Schniepp of Germany agreed to carry on Kevin's work by preparing maps of Peru , Uruguay and Tierra del Fuego . Kevin's research material on Brasil was completed by David and Lan to create his last cartographic wonder. Andrew Duggan took on the task of mapping the continent's cities. Now, GIS technology is revolutionizing how maps are made and improving accuracy precision, and traditional cartography is a thing of the past. We are training a new generation of younger cartographers to re-design all our maps using the latest GIS technology to make them even more accurate and informative in the future.

The names and faces of ITM may be changing, but our commitment to mapping the world top to bottom continues unabated. It took 22 years to complete the mapping of every country in South America, the goal that initiated ITMB knowing in advance that it would take us a generation to complete the task. We finished two years behind schedule, but we completed mapping a continent that had never been mapped before in detail. As well, a large team of cartographers in Europe, Asia, and North America spent three years compiling all of our data into a continental data base to prepare for the day that Kevin's masterpiece reference map of South America would have to be replaced by digital artwork. That day arrived in 2005 and resulted in a brilliant new South American continental reference map being published that retained the best of Kevin's love of detail at an improved scale on a larger piece of paper. This new artwork is a true world map, with dedicated contributions by cartographers from around the world, coordinated by Lan. She is now preparing a detailed digital data base of all of Africa, having already completed a unique digital data base for the USA in 2009. Due to its size, we have decided not to organize Asia as a single data base, but have completed South East Asia, China, and India , and are working on Central Asia . We have published travel reference maps of each country in the Eastern Mediterranean/Middle East, including Turkey, but have decided not to do Cyprus for now as there are several excellent maps already available. Instead, we're focusing on the Balkans.

More can be said, but this should give you an idea that ITMB is not just another ho-hum company. Sure, we need to make money to carry on our business, so there is a charge for our products, but anyone who thinks that we make gobs of money out of selling maps of Patagonia or Eritrea or BC's Fraser Valley , is welcome to try and duplicate our efforts. There is a reason why, to this day, so many of ITMB's titles remain as unique map titles: market demand is so limited for titles such as Borneo, Malawi, Qatar, Surinam, or Uruguay that every other map publisher ignores them. We will continue mapping the world, one little piece at a time, for as long as people like yourself continue to find our maps and atlases interesting and useful. In the past decade, more than a million and a half ITMB maps were sold, in more than 5,000 stores worldwide, using 74 international distributors. More than 20,000 ITMB maps are being sold each and every month, year after year, even during the worst economic recession to hit the world since the 1930s.

Now, using the web, more individuals than ever can find out more about our publications. This web page, hopefully, has told you something about who we are and why we do what we do. If you wish more information, please contact me, Jack, by fax or e-mail. You can subscribe, for free, to our new titles press releases and our Axis of Evil Mapping newsletter and keep on top of mapping innovations that are transforming our perception of the world. Every map we publish has its own story, its own trauma and drama, and its own funny story, and you can share in the task of contributing your expertise to the world mapping project by adding your expertise to our data base. We love to have input correcting errors, noting new developments such as newly-paved highways, or keeping on top of place name changes around the world. Our most recent challenge will be following the unravelling of the Sudan . What will the South call itself? Where will the border be?

I'm as excited about the next twenty-five years as I have been enthusiastic throughout the past twenty-five. It took a quarter century for ITMB to reach the 350 title mark. We won't grow much beyond that, but will spend the next quarter century re-working our artwork into road atlases, wall maps, and interactive formats as technology evolves and coverage of obscure parts of the world becomes available (surprisingly, large parts of Africa, central Asia, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific are not yet available). The next five to ten years is going to see more exciting and more innovative changes to maps than anyone has experienced in the past half century as computer technology mutates into some form of compact laptop/cell phone/Ipod device. We now make our maps available digitally to individuals, and will, no doubt, improve the availability of digital information commercially as needs develop beyond the simplistic level it is at right now. So many maps; so little time!

Sincerely,
Jack Joyce, Pres., ITMB Publishing Ltd., and passionate map maker who can't draw a straight line with a ruler, but has ground-truthed 150 countries and has a wife who can design.