15+ Years of Experience
ZI was founded in 2017 by Lauren Zelek, a curious entrepreneur who was bit by the travel bug at a young age. In 2003, Lauren moved with her family to Tokyo and became enamored with the people, culture, language and landscape. Over the next decade, she traveled to and from Japan and the U.S., deepening her love for Japan and all things Asia. With this came a natural blending of these travel experiences and memories into her life at work and home.
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 to support their athletes. From cross-cultural communication and negotiating with various Japanese stakeholders (homeowners, service apartments, hotels, tour providers, etc.), we secured $2.4 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!!
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.