Protected Trust Services (PTS) says it is recruiting members “by the day” as it revealed 162 travel companies had joined in the past year.

There are now 291 travel firms in the group, more than half of which have joined since March 1, 2020.

In total, PTS has 188 tour operator members, 96 travel agents with a combined 163 retail outlets (including homeworkers), and seven flight-only businesses.

Head of business development Jacqui Cleaver said members were joining “at a rate of knots” because of heightened awareness of trust accounts as a result of Covid.

In December, PTS rolled out the latest version of its Financial Track and Trace system, which allows customers to see confirmation of when their money is in trust. Cleaver said this had led to companies joining “by the day” in recent weeks.

“The consumer can see exactly where their money is at any time,” she said. “Everyone in the industry has suddenly realised what we’ve built.”

Cleaver described PTS – which launched to agents with at least two years’ experience three years ago – as “scaffolding” for travel firms, rather than a traditional consortium.

Managing director Daniel Landen said the company’s “Amazon store for travel” concept meant consumers could track payments online and “know exactly where their money is”.

He said its “simplicity” gave firms confidence and attracted members ranging from £30 million turnover businesses to individual homeworkers.

Landen highlighted two selling points that appealed to new and prospective members. He said PTS had not had to issue any refund credit notes in the past year, because money was covered via its trust account model, and refund monies paid back by suppliers were forwarded on to members within a day.

However, Landen accepted that money paid upfront to low-cost airlines still carried some risk to agent members as fares had to be paid via agents’ credit cards, but he pointed out holidaymakers’ money would still be fully-protected in trust.