Your Stories: How Liliia Ilkevych set up Fly&Joy after moving to UK from Ukraine

The entrepreneur tells Andrew McQuarrie about launching her agency after joining The Travel Network Group

Q. When did you become a travel agent?
A.I set up Fly&Joy in December 2022 as a franchisee of More Than Cruise. I got a website and started developing my brand on social networks. In February this year, I joined The Travel Network Group as a member of the Travel Trust Association (TTA).

Q. Can you tell us about your life in Ukraine?
A. I was born in Mykolaiv in the south of Ukraine, but grew up and went to school in the small town of Pershotravensk towards the west of the country. After graduating from Kyiv National University with a masters degree in finance, I started working at Ukrsibbank BNP Paribas in Kyiv and was there for 16 years. For the last three years, I was the head of a new department – I had a staff of 30, and we built a remote banking service for premium customers. Thanks to my work at this bank, I gained the skills that are helping me build my own business in the UK.

The war in Ukraine changed the lives of millions of Ukrainians, including mine. I decided to move to the UK to ensure my children were safe and we had to start life over again

Q. What did you do after Russia invaded Ukraine?
A. The war in Ukraine changed the lives of millions of Ukrainians, including mine. I decided to move to the UK to ensure my children were safe and we had to start life over again. I came to the UK in June 2022 with my two daughters, Olya and Tanya. Olya was 20 years old at the time and Tanya was 10. Olya was lucky – she spoke English well and is currently studying at university in London after receiving a scholarship. It was more difficult for Tanya and me. However, children quickly adapt to new conditions and Tanya is now in secondary school and doing well, according to her teachers.

People from Ukraine in the UK now find they have a lot of options, so they have started travelling to different destinations – and not only beach holidays

Q. How do you find your clients?
A. I have about 10,000 followers across Facebook, Instagram and Telegram. Telegram is similar to WhatsApp, but more popular among Ukrainians. Marketing is the most important thing – you need to post at least three times a day.

Q. What trips do you sell?
A. Ukrainian people like beach holidays, so the most popular trips are all-inclusive package holidays. But people from Ukraine in the UK now find they have a lot of options, so they have started travelling to different destinations – and not only beach holidays. In my social media posts I need to tell customers that there are possibilities like travelling by train or going on a cruise or a city break. At the moment, the most popular destinations include Spain, Turkey, Egypt, the Dominican Republic, the United Arab Emirates and the Maldives.

If I were to open a shop here, it could be a risk because I might not have enough clients in the area. Working online is safe, easy and fast

Q. Would you consider opening a shop?
A. There are 200,000 Ukrainians in the UK and they live in different places. I am in Cornwall, but my clients could live anywhere. If I were to open a shop here, it could be a risk because I might not have enough clients in the area. Working online is safe, easy and fast. I don’t need to meet clients face-to-face – they are not afraid to send me their money because I’m a member of the TTA and soon I hope to have an Atol in my company name.

I have started to create my own website where my clients can book holidays, and perhaps in a year and a half I’ll create a franchise

Q. What plans do you have for your business?
A. I’ve applied for an Atol, so I can start creating my own product and work as a tour operator. Then I’m going to hire staff – I think it will be next year – and this would help me start selling to English people because I could hire a person who can speak English more fluently than I can. I have started to create my own website where my clients can book holidays, and perhaps in a year and a half I’ll create a franchise with personal travel consultants who would trade under Fly&Joy. They would be Ukrainian people who worked in Ukraine as travel agents, but can’t start working in the UK as agents because of the language barrier. I could help these people start a travel business in the UK, because I’ve done it myself.


What was it like when you first moved to the UK?

I didn’t speak English so I couldn’t talk to local people or read – it was terrible. I’m very grateful to the British people who helped Ukrainians when they came to the UK. My hosts helped me to understand English, the British money, the local area and shops, and told me the local rules. And they helped my daughter start in a new school. So they helped me with everything. I had English lessons remotely three times a week and watched English films. Then I took part in the Step programme, which offers two and a half hours of English lessons every day for 10 weeks plus homework. It was a challenge, but it has really helped me improve my English. I would like to thank the UK government for the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Thanks to this support, I am now not worried about the lives of my children and can calmly build my new career and my own business in Britain. I would also like to thank my hosts. My first hosts in Cornwall were Helen and Jonathan Greenstreet, and I am currently hosted by Hannah Jenkinson and Rob Tape.

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