About the Founder

As Seen In

BBC Travel
Condé Nast Traveler
National Geographic
ITB Berlin
CBC News Canada
Caribbean Tourism Organization
World Travel Market Africa
The Globe and Mail
The washington post

Lebawit* Lily Girma is the founder of Tourism Lens. She is currently a full-time travel news reporter at Bloomberg Pursuits— the lifestyle arm of Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Businessweek—as well as a freelance award-winning journalist. Lebawit counts more than 15 years of experience in the travel industry reporting on global tourism with a focus on sustainability, for business and consumer-facing travel publications.

This former corporate attorney ditched her Washington DC office for the road and a new career in travel storytelling in 2008, and her writing and photography have been published in major publications: BBC, Conde Nast Traveler (US and UK), CNN, National Geographic Traveller UK, Travel & Leisure, Sierra, Lonely Planet, and The Guardian, among others, plus past in-flight magazines such as Delta Sky and MorningCalm (Korean Air).

For nearly two years during the Covid pandemic, Lebawit was also editor-at-large and full-time global tourism reporter at Skift, a news company focused on the business of travel. There, she wrote about the future of tourism and its recovery for a niche audience of travel executives, from the evolution of tourism boards as destination stewards, to equity, responsible marketing, community tourism, and climate action, among other topics analyzing the meaning behind “build back better” for the travel industry. Her articles dominated the platform’s top 10 most viewed stories in 2021.

Lebawit appears regularly in the media, and she is sought out for industry events as a speaker or moderator on global tourism topics. Her appearances, including keynote speeches and interviews, include CNN with Richard Quest, Bloomberg CityLab, Skift Global Forum, ITB Berlin, WTM Africa, Alaska Media Road Show, Belize Digital Marketing Summit, CREST World Tourism Day Forum, and Women in Travel Summit, among others.

Did you know? Lebawit means “thinker” in the ancient Ethiopian Ge’ez language.
Lily’s third culture upbringing and her cross-continental experiences inform her outlook on global tourism as a vehicle for the economic empowerment of host communities, increased DEI and cross- cultural understanding, and cultural preservation.

A Leap of Faith

It didn’t all happen overnight: Lebawit started out a career in travel photography and writing about the Caribbean in 2008 through her blog, Sun & Stilettos. That eventually led her to incredible opportunities, including authoring entire guidebooks on Belize and the Dominican Republic for Moon Travel Guides, creating content for major travel brands and tourism boards (Marriott Bonvoy, Travelzoo, AA Vacations, TripAdvisor), and leading the editorial team of a visitor magazine.

Throughout the years, her focus remained consistent: advocating for sustainable tourism—nature, culture, low impact experiences—and the kind of immersive, culture-focused trips that make a difference in the places and communities you visit.

In 2020, at the height of the Covid pandemic, Forbes magazine featured her as one of “15 Black Travel Writers to Read Now.” Lily is also the recipient of multiple awards for her journalism, writing and photography, including the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Marcia Vickery Wallace award for excellence in travel journalism, a 2023 Lowell Thomas Award in the environment and sustainability category, two nods from NATJA in 2024 for DEI and for service storytelling, three writing and photography awards from Barbados Tourism Marketing and a 2022 Bessie Awards from Wanderful for Most Impactful Piece of Writing of the Year for her story calling on the travel industry to act on vaccine equity.

A Multicultural Lens

Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia of Ethiopian parents who grew up during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie. Raised in Cote d’Ivoire—formerly colonized by the French—from age nine, and later educated in the UK and U.S. More than a decade of exploring parts of western Europe and the Caribbean region long-term.

All of these experiences and Lebawit’s “third culture” life journey have shaped her work and inform her philosophy on tourism as a vehicle for economic empowerment, cross cultural exchange and social impact. Making a meaningful positive impact and transparency in travel lie at the core of her values.

Lebawit holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law and a Professional Certificate in Sustainable Tourism from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. She is fluent in four languages, including Amharic, French (native level) and Spanish (fluent).

Follow Lebawit’s work and exclusive insights on travel at tourismlens.com. Subscribe to the newsletter for updates on new stories and collaborators.

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