Debt, recession, social unrest? Sun, sea and historic sights lure tourists back to Greece in their droves. It's expecting a record year for visitor numbers in 2014, giving its economy a much-needed lift as it inches back to recovery. Hayley Platt reports.
Historic landmarks and glorious sunshine have long made it a favorite holiday destination. That is, until Greece's crippling debt, worries about social unrest and its possible exit from the euro zone, kept holiday makers away. Now as the country emerges from the crisis, visitors numbers are set to soar. Andreas Andreadis is from the Greek Tourism Confederation. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ANDREAS ANDREADIS, PRESIDENT OF THE GREEK TOURISM CONFEDERATION, SAYING: "Greece is in fashion again, that is good news. I hear from everywhere, 'we go to Greece this year,' this is really a very good thing for the country and its economy." Tourism is Greece's biggest cash earner. It accounts for a fifth of GDP and employs one in five Greeks. During the slump, hotel owners and restauranteurs have had to slash prices to lure visitors. It seems to be working. (SOUNDBITE) (English) TOURIST DAVID ABRAMOVIC FROM LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, SAYING: "I think the hotels are decent value and the restaurants are an excellent value." (SOUNDBITE) (English) TOURIST PETER MAIJDERWIJK FROM THE NETHERLANDS, SAYING: "It was not a good thing to see a crisis going on in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. Yes there were a lot of monetary reasons but this is nothing to do with the people or the country itself." This year Greece is expected to smash all records with 19 million arrivals. That's over a million more than it was pre-crisis and worth 13 billion euros to the economy. Many of them will visit the capital Athens. (SOUNDBITE)(English) ANDREAS ANDREADIS, PRESIDENT OF THE GREEK TOURISM CONFEDERATION, SAYING: "This is very good news for a city that is really beautiful but suffered a lot because of the demonstrations, because of the problems, you know, with security and so on, the bad image of the city." After six consecutive years of recession, the Greek economy is set to grow again at 0.6 percent. It's been bailed out twice by the IMF and EU with loans of around 240 billion euros. It's making good progress. The influx of returning visitors should create 50,000 new jobs. It won't solve the country's high unemployment altogether - where 27 percent are out of work and youth unemployment is more than than double that. But it's a step in the right direction to once again becoming the jewel in the mediterranean crown.