OUR STORY

15+ YEARS OF EXPERIENCE.

ZI was founded in 2017 by Lauren Zelek, a curious traveler and entrepreneur who was bitten by the travel bug at a youg age. Originally from Upstate NY, she and her family moved to Japan in 2003, splitting their time living between Japan and the U.S. and traveling throughout various parts of Asia. This experience created a gradual but deep appreciation for understanding cultural differences between the East and West, as well as an acute awareness to responsibly interact with destinations and host populations.


2016

At the Summer Games in Rio, Lauren recognized an opportunity to serve U.S. athletes and their families for the next Summer Games in Tokyo. For the next few years our team interacted with hundreds of athletes and their families -- uniting the team’s love for travel and cross-cultural education with these stakeholders’ interest in consciously navigating a new culture, its people, and overall environment.

In 2018 the team led a 25-person "Olympic"-themed tour for the U.S.-Japan Council's Annual Conference. Among the tour stops were the National Stadium (where the Opening & Closing ceremonies were hosted), Tokyo American Club, and the Panasonic Tokyo Center.

2020

The novel COVID-19 pandemic paralyzed economies, devastated communities, and confined nearly half of humanity to their homes. Let's not also forget that it completely shut down the travel and tourism industry. During this time ZI pivoted to offer virtual travel experiences and and pre-travel planning services to its most discerning clients interested in traveling to Asia post-COVID. Now, we are proud to be a company focused on experiential, niche and sustainable tourism.

2021

After a long winding journey surviving COVID and the Games, we successfully served over 30 families, private Donors and 1964 athletes, equipping them with the knowledge and insights on reversing their trips to Tokyo and throughout Japan. From cross-cultural communication and negotiations with various Japanese stakeholders (homeowners, service apartments, hotels, tour providers, etc.), we secured roughly $3 million in travel refunds for various clients.


Today, our team small, yet passionate team allows us to be nimble and serve our clients diverse and changing needs. The travel experiences that we love and expect for ourselves, our families and friends underlie the services that we provide to our clients and growing travel community. We look forward to the exciting years in travel ahead!!

MEET THE TEAM.

We are a passionate bunch of guides, explorers, and experience matchmakers who love to think about the future of human mobility on Mother Earth. It runs in our DNA and the fabric of our interactions as colleagues, trusted Travel Advisors, humans, and stewards of our planet.

LAUREN ZELEK

Founder & CEO

GAETAN REUSE

Managing Director, Europe

I spent four years in Japan, attending Sophia University and practicing the art of JUDO. Tokyo is the city for the 2020 Summer Games, and there is a worldwide interest in visiting for the Games and the country to gain a unique cultural experience, much like I experienced in 1964. If you are contemplating visiting Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics or just want to experience the real Japan, Terry and I would highly recommend that you work with Lauren and ZI to greatly enhance your travel experience, enjoyment of a wonderful city and a beautiful country.

WHERE WE'RE GOING.

Since the global COVID-19 pandemic ZI has deepened its focus on sustainable and responsible tourism as we believe the most critical challenges to travel today are climate change, overtourism, and lack of cultural sensitivity and consciousness.

Our Vision

To transform the way the world travels by delivering both virtual and in-persontravel experiences that can make a massive impact on the traveler, local communities and the global economy.

Our Mission

To promote responsible travel policies and practices that enable our travelers to do good so that local economies we visit may thrive and steward their cultural, economic, and environmental resources.

OUR CORE VALUES.

Our leadership is guided by and enduring set of values that define our relationships with team members, clients, and the communities in which we travel to and operate.

Integrity

Quality

People

Leadership

Originality

Environment

Discovery

Innovation

OUR DIFFERENCE.

What makes us the top choice for conscious travelers?

Hyperlocal

We keep each and every interaction, from our VTA sessions to guided tours, intimate, educational, and oriented around a well-defined community with its primary focus directed toward the concerns of the population in that community.

Responsible

We believe that every traveler is a steward of the world and that being a good one means being sustainable, respectful and conscious in how we choose to travel and interact with the destinations and communities we visit. 

See the Whole Picture

Our team recognizes that most travel by its nature does not just involve industry businesses, but the destination as a whole—its ecosystems, natural resources, cultural assets and traditions, economies, communities, and built infrastructure.

We also take health, hygiene and safety very, very seriously.

COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS.

ZI is an active members of the U.S.-Japan and travel sectors. We are proud members of the following organizations: