Pioneers of Travel

‘The only thing that counts is doing your own exploration.’ This spirit of adventure and the urge to discover are what inspired Kurt Mair, the founder of MAIRDUMONT, to travel the world in the 1920s. He journeyed through the whole of Europe, Africa and Asia; from the North Cape to the Sahara Desert. His preferred mode of travel was his motorbike or his Standard Vanguard car. He documented, described and mapped everything he saw.

After World War II – when Germany was largely destroyed – he already had the vision: that the Germans would travel. And he knew even then that there was nothing more positive than travelling. In 1948 he founded the Kartographische Institut Kurt Mair (later Mairs Geographischer Verlag and MAIRDUMONT) complete with its own surveying department. His aim was globetrotting for everyone; to promote a democratised version of the privileged ‘Grand Tour’. In short: travel as we know it today.

His own survey vehicles were continuously on the road, being driven hundreds of thousands of kilometres to map and photograph roads and destroyed bridges. There was at that time no single authority in Germany that recorded the destruction left by World War II. There quickly developed collaboration with all the highway agencies of the federal states, which enabled the publisher to include new schemes in his road atlases. Doing their own surveying, then a real pioneering achievement, made the resulting maps very popular: at that time no other maps were as accurate and reliable. From 1950 the first ‘Shell Autoatlas Deutschland’ became the most important companion for German motorists and to a large extent became the model for generations of atlases. Surveying and exploring became the guiding principle of the company’s development, both for maps as well as later for travel guides.

Kurt Mair himself would pursue his passion for travel again and again. Together with his family he journeyed to Africa, through Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco and right across the Sahara; through Europe and Turkey. The expeditions were real adventures, particularly surveying trips when everything had to be recorded and mapped. The travellers were on the road for months at a time, pitched their tents in the most beautiful places, even – when it was possible – on Mt Vesuvius or Mt Toubkal, the highest mountain in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Back then there were no regulations or guidebooks, nor a tourist infrastructure.

After the sudden death of his father, his son Volkmar Mair took over the company. He too loved travelling and in 1960 became the first German to cross Russia by car, from Berlin via Warsaw to Moscow and St Petersburg, Kiev, Yalta and Odessa.

Since 1 January 2010 his daughter Stephanie Mair-Huydts has been Chairwoman of the MAIRDUMONT Management Board. His son Frank is Managing Director.

Pioneering spirit, feeling for adventure and creative drive not only shaped the emergence of MAIRDUMONT. They are also evident in the history of the publishing companies that now belong to the MAIRDUMONT group. Many of them were themselves far-sighted trailblazers and pioneers in their field, as is the case, for example, with Baedeker Verlag. Karl Baedeker is considered the father of travel guides worldwide. With his ‘Rheinreise’ title, published in 1932, he created the world’s first-ever guide. Gerhard Falk invented the patented folding system of the FALK City Maps and the hyperboloid projection; the origins of Hallwag and Kümmerly + Frey are inextricably linked with the history of travel; DuMont retains its reputation for individuality, open-mindedness and intellect; and Lonely Planet is synonymous with individual travel worldwide. Today all our publishers and partners, pioneers of travel, are gathered under one roof.

This spirit is still felt within the company. Travel is continuously evolving. Media development opens up new possibilities for information and inspiration for the traveller. MAIRDUMONT is always creating innovation, whether in mobile or web-based media or in print.