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havana-live-hotel-iberostar_parque_central_HAVANA,  July 24  Spain is holding talks to secure hotel and infrastructure deals in Cuba as the island opens up to foreign investors, Spanish tourism minister Jose Manuel Soria said.

Cuban authorities are targeting more than $2 billion in foreign investment on an annual basis to bolster growth after five decades of global isolation, Soria said in a Bloomberg Television interview.

As part of the plan to modernize Cuba, the country is seeking to increase the number of hotel rooms and improve old infrastructure, said Soria, who also oversees Spain’s energy and industry sectors. He said he sees opportunities for Spanish companies specializing in those areas.

“The Cuban government told me of the objective for 30,000 new tourist beds,” he said. “Apart from tourism, they will need generating plants, new electricity grids, new infrastructure, roads and airports, and Spanish companies are well situated.”

Some of Spain’s biggest travel companies already operate in Cuba, including Iberia airlines, which covers the Madrid-Havana route, as well as hotel giants NH Hotel Group SA and RIU Hotels SA. Spanish exports to Cuba totaled 75.7 million euros ($83 million) in May, according to the government in Madrid.

“Despite the multiple historical and cultural ties between the two countries, diplomatic relationships with Cuba have been rather frosty for years,” said Angel Talavera, an economist with Oxford Economics in London. “This may signal a change in attitude from the Spanish government, probably concerned about losing investment opportunities and economic influence in favor of America.”

Earlier this month, Soria traveled to Cuba on an official visit accompanied by Spanish diplomats and representatives of companies including Iberdrola SA, Obrascon Huarte Lain SA and Ferrovial SA. The trip to Spain’s former colony coincided with the restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-23/cuban-hotel-infrastructure-deals-are-spanish-goals-soria-says