April 26 - The tide may be turning in Greece's clear waters, in the tourism industry at least. Record numbers of tourists are expected this year, following stagnation brought about by the economic crisis. Hayley Platt reports.
Its turquoise sea, idyllic islands and stunning scenery are what have made Greece a holiday hot-spot for years. But the financial crisis of 2008 saw visitor numbers dwindle. Now a new report from the country's main tourism body shows the good times could soon be back. Alexandros Vassilikos is President of the Attica Hotel Association. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PRESIDENT OF THE ATTICA HOTEL ASSOCIATION, ALEXANDROS VASSILIKOS, SAYING: "Greece as a whole will, will see 17 million arrivals, which is a huge record for Greece, it's a new record for Greece." Tourism is still the country's biggest earner, next to shipping. So when the financial crisis hit, those in the tourism industry were hit hard. Regular protests over austerity measures seemed to be a turn off for tourists. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PRESIDENT OF THE ATTICA HOTEL ASSOCIATION, ALEXANDROS VASSILIKOS, SAYING: "The crisis affected the destination a lot, like I said because of the fall in demand, we had a fall in prices that was over 40 percent over the past four years, but again we have to look at the positive side of this, which is that today we offer a much better value for money, because the hotels are the same, the same as they were four years ago only they are much cheaper, nearly by 40, 50 percent." Many hoteliers have been forced to slash prices and upgrade their services to lure visitors. About 40 percent of Greece's hotels are now 4 or 5-star - 25 percent higher than they were in 2004. It also has a new stable government which has helped give holidaymakers more confidence. And things are looking good for the coming summer - with bookings from Germany and the UK up 15 percent and 20 percent respectively.