SEOUL, Feb. 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korean travel agencies said Monday they saw their annual sales plummet more than 80 percent last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are in urgent need of relief measures from the government.
"(Travel agencies) can no longer shoulder their fixed costs due to mounting debts and their employees have been driven out of their workplaces after massive layoffs," a task force formed to tackle the crisis facing the businesses said in a press conference held in front of Cheong Wa Dae in central Seoul.
It said the travel agencies have been pushed to "the brink of collapse" during the COVID-19 pandemic and thus should be provided with relief funds and compensation that are equivalent to those to be distributed to small businesses ordered to close or cut down operations due to strict social distancing rules.
In particular, it requested that the government relax its current 14-day self-quarantine order imposed on those arriving from abroad.
According to a recent survey released by the Korea Association of Travel Agents, its members saw their sales tumble 83.7 percent to 2.06 trillion won (US$1.8 billion) in 2020 from a year earlier as the pandemic inflicted a crushing blow to the tourism industry.
As many as 48,000 people in the business sector have either lost their jobs or been forced to take a leave of absence due to the pandemic, according to the survey, conducted on 17,664 travel agents nationwide between September and October, at the request of the association.
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