Greece 'to pay costs for stranded tourists'

Tourists in Athens (file image)
Image caption Tourism accounts for one in every five jobs in Greece

Greece says it will cover the extra costs for any tourists stranded in the country as a result of industrial action or natural disaster.

The offer is part of an effort to improve Greece's image, which has been damaged by strikes and protests over government austerity measures.

Tourism generates almost 20% of the nation's income, but bookings are down by about 10%, industry experts say.

Strikes are continuing, although the number of violent clashes has eased.

Greek tourism has also suffered the effects of the eruption of a volcano in Iceland, which spewed vast quantities of ash into the sky for days, blocking air routes.

'Signs of recovery'

"We are guaranteeing to pay any extra room and board any visitor in Greece pays even if stuck here because of a volcano in Iceland," said Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos.

Mr Geroulanos said tourism seemed to be recovering, although it was too early to make accurate forecasts.

"The numbers are not really as gloomy as they were with the first cancellations," he told a press conference.

"Some destinations have suffered greatly due to the crisis, but others are doing better than before."

The Greek government is imposing a swathe of austerity measures in return for a 110bn-euro (£95bn) bail-out from the EU and IMF.

The aim is to cut the country's public deficit to less than 3% of GDP by 2014. It currently stands at 13.6%.

But strikes in protest at the measures have brought the country to a standstill on several occasions, closing airports, roads and railways.

Mr Geroulanos also unveiled a new internet drive to advertise Greece as a tourist destination.