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.
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.
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.
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!!
We are a passionate bunch of guides, explorers, experience matchmakers and ideators 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 this great planet.
Managing Director, Europe
WHERE WE'RE GOING.
ZI's visionary leadership is guided by an enduring set of values that defines our relationships with team members, clients, and the communities in which we operate.
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.
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.
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.