Midcounties Co-operative Travel is embarking on its most aggressive recruitment drive to date following the appointment of Alison Holmes as head of its consortium.

Alistair Rowland, group general manager, said the Co-op Consortium now aimed to more than double its membership to around 75 agencies by the end of next year.

In its first year the consortium attracted 26 members and achieved turnover of almost £100 million.

“It’s the first time we have been aggressive in recruitment. We have acquired Alison to grow the consortium and we are fully committed to the consortium model,” he said.

Holmes, head of Thomas Cook-owned Freedom Travel Group and The Co-operative Personal Travel Advisors, joins Midcounties in three months’ time.

Her decision has fuelled speculation that some of Freedom’s larger members may jump ship to Midcounties. Several members are understood to have served notice to leave Freedom.

Rowland would not comment but admitted there had been “serious interest” from potential new members. “There has been significant interest since our news to appoint Alison,” he said.

He predicted agents would switch consortia as a result of the CAA’s requirement for Atol-accredited bodies, of which Freedom is one, to set up trust accounts by yesterday’s (May 1) deadline.

“Because consortium operators will no longer have the cash, as it will be tied up in a trust fund, the costs of being a consortium member are likely to go up and there is likely to be more movement,” he said.

The CAA said all accredited bodies were expected to meet the trust requirements this week. Cook confirmed it had agreed an “interim” arrangement with the CAA, which both parties “were happy with”.