"The people are very friendly, very welcoming, they are always happy to see you. Good job," Dovrenova said, as she sunbathed at the pebble stone beach.
Shi Tang, 29, from China who works as a sales manager at a radio station in nearby Turkey said he will return to Batumi, which he called a "European city," with his friends.
"This is a good place: good sea, good beach and there are so many churches," Shi said.
Locals call Batumi "the city of love" and authorities have erected numerous monuments to make the point — like the figure of a man kneeling down before a woman, offering her a red heart. They've even opened a round-the-clock marriage registry, where anyone can tie the knot day and night.
"A lot of families have been created after the tourist season in Batumi," Chkhaidze, the mayor, said with a smile.
But a lot remains to be done. Step a few blocks away from the city center, and you may stumble into a pot-hole, see crumbling buildings and underwear flapping in the wind on balconies. Locals complain that water shortages still persist in residential areas and the average monthly salary in the city is just $300.
"People are still struggling, but the city is getting better and better," said Marina Soselia, a 57-year-old doctor in Batumi.
Despite the difficulties, officials say, tourists are sure to get a warm welcome in Georgia.
One recent afternoon, a taxi driver pulled up to entrance of the Batumi and told his passengers, a young couple, that the next time they come here, "I will show you such places, that you wouldn't want to leave." The couple smiled with gratitude, but a colleague of the driver who stood nearby admonished him, "Why didn't you show them these places this time around? If you had, they wouldn't be leaving now!"
Associated Press Writer Misha Dzhindzhikhashvili contributed to this report from Tbilisi, Georgia.
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