HAVANA, Dec 30 Cuba builds 36 hotels that will be inaugurated in the medium term, to add 18,000 new rooms, according to the announcement made this week by the Cuban Minister of Tourism, Manuel Marrero.

Marrero recently explained on Cuban Television that a large percentage of the investment plans approved each year is aimed at modernizing and updating the existing hotel facility.

He acknowledged, however, that for a long time resources were lacking, which led to the aging of certain facilities.

In 2019, the island expects to receive 5.1 million visitors, a new record, which would represent a growth of 7 percent of the so-called industry without chimneys.

Next year, tourist revenues will surpass $ 3 billion for the first time, an increase of 17 percent.

“We are evolving and we have the potential, but it is necessary to achieve the essential linkages,” said Marrero on the television program Mesa Redonda.

In his speech, he also referred to the need for this sector to become the locomotive of the Cuban economy.

Tourism is the sector that receives the most investments every year on the island, mainly through external loans, although the minister said that the year that the plan ends ended at 92 percent.

The Minister of Tourism explained that in Havana the development of a high standard tourism is promoted, since of the 12,000 rooms it has, 44 percent corresponds to category two and three stars.

“There is a market, especially for businessmen, that currently demands luxury hotels,” said the Cuban official.

Regarding the links with the non-state sector, he said that although there have been problems, this alliance is beneficial, because the private offer has served to compensate for the capacity deficit that was present in some cities.

The Ministry of Tourism (Mintur) of Cuba serves the private sector linked to the sector, although “it is a rectory to support them,” explained Marrero.

The travel agencies have signed contracts with 2,000 private landlords, 400 restaurants and 900 transporters, as well as some 2,500 agreements signed with cooperatives for the maintenance of hotels.

For his part, the director of Development of the Mintur, Alexander Sierra, said that the government promotes tourism based on the use of its natural resources.

On the island there are 114 identified tourist poles, mainly in areas of sun and beach, where some of them are now beginning to be exploited.

According to Sierra, the country has an assessed potential of 400,000 hotel rooms, and currently has only 17 percent of the potential.

The Mintur also has an environmental strategy that includes actions such as the elimination of installations located very close to the coastline, the use of solar heaters and LED lamps, and the installation of desalination plants.

The 2019 International Tourism Fair will take place from May 6 to 11, dedicated to the 500th anniversary of Havana, and will have Spain as the guest country.

The delegate of the Mintur in Havana, Xonia Beltrán, confirmed the participation for the event of important tour operators, travel agents and airlines of the main partners of Cuba.

For the anniversary of the Cuban capital, which will be held on November 16, some 1,100 hotel capacity spaces will be recovered and 12 new facilities will be opened.

Cuba will close 2018 with the arrival of 4.7 million visitors, which means a growth of the sector of 6 percent and the eleventh consecutive year of record in that indicator.