Sheena Bhattessa completed a law degree before a brief stint as an actress. But it was on a trip to Turkey with a group of girlfriends that she found her calling, creating Citizen Femme, a travel and style guide for global women.
How did you come up with the idea for Citizen Femme? It was on a trip to Turkey with a group of friends about seven years ago. Instagram was booming and people were tagging their journey more than anything. There was great curiosity about where people went, stayed, ate. But it wouldn’t actually lead to booking a hotel or restaurant, or buying something fashion or beauty, through the platform, as there was a lack of truth. It got me thinking, where would I really go to get that honest and authoritative recommendation. And who is really speaking to my demographic as a female traveler? This was the genesis of Citzen Femme.
What does Citizen Femme offer that wasn’t already available? Many of the major magazines had not yet thrived in the online space. It felt like there was a real gap in the market for a female-driven travel and lifestyle publication that spoke to me like a close friend.
We were one of the first publications to speak directly to the female traveler and recognize the impact they were having on the market. When you consider the facts that women make approximately 85% of all travel decisions, and they have about $15 trillion in spending power.
What is the story behind the name “Citizen Femme” and how did you come up with it? I wish there was a great story behind this, but there really isn’t. It was originally “It’s a Girl’s Travel Guide” but it made me think of Girl Scouts. Then Citizen Femme was born. It’s one of those names that pops into your head, and when I pitched the idea to a few people, it had a buzz around it and stuck.
How do women travel differently than men and how has that evolved since you started the site? There are so many ways we find it varies. While this does not apply to everything female or everything men.
First, packing habits change. Women usually take more care in what they pack, pack ahead of time and plan their outfits. This is why we have attached packaging modifications to over 80% of our parts. What should I wear for that particular culture? Or about that event? Or at that time of year? Or to eat at that restaurant?
Then we find that women find it important to gain something from the trip. With that comes more time planning and with an increased sensitivity to different cultures and what’s around them, this has an impact on how women travel.
Travel is also often seen as self-development, or self-care, and we talk about that. In today’s times, we are all programmed to be productive and rest is the enemy of the “rush culture”. Going away is real time off and we make sure it’s not wasted.
“We want to make sure they don’t waste a minute in the wrong place.”—what does that look like tangibly and in terms of what you do on the site? Given that time is of the essence and holidays are limited—and increasingly expensive—it really comes down to instruction. Everything on site is personally verified and approved by our team. If we don’t like it, we don’t write about it.
If we’re offering an insider’s guide, we want to make sure someone knows what they’re talking about and the advice is authentic—we’re doing the hard work for you. When a reader clicks on a destination guide, or wants to book a spa, or needs some inspiration for a multi-generational trip, they can have complete confidence that we can give them the information they want and need .
What are your top travel tips in 2023? Check out “destination twin” trips, a great way to get the most out of being in each part of the world you’ve traveled to.
And don’t rush it, if you can. Enjoy slow travel—see more of a place, and a good way to do this is by car or train, which also ties in well with the increase in flight delays and cancellations we’ve seen recently, as well as more stable.
What is always in your suitcase? Airpods, Isabel Marant trainers, Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm, a super comfy blue Theory T-shirt, Agolde jeans, simple black and white tops, a pair of heels and probiotics. The basics!
Tell me about the catalyst trip to Istanbul and how you got from that disappointment to the idea and courage to start your own business?We stayed at a big chain hotel (to name a few), and there were so many things that didn’t make us feel comfortable. There were major design flaws, including very dim lighting, especially in the bedrooms and bathrooms, no outlets near the beds or hair dryers, among other issues. It was difficult to get any kind of transportation to get out and back, and it didn’t feel particularly safe. This led me to ask the question, who would advise me on what I really want to know as a female traveler and which hotel would really suit me? It really grew from there.