EFEHavana

Cuba plans to create some 108,000 new tourist lodgings as part of the National Plan for Economic and Social Development from now to the year 2030, which is being debated Monday by delegates at the 7th Congress of the ruling Communist Party.

Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero announced that the project has already picked the possible locations for the future lodgings, the Communist Party daily Granma said.

The minister said that a parallel investment program will be carried out "to raise the quality and standards of existing hotels."

"We can't make the same mistakes that other countries do, when in the midst of new developments they forget about their old hotels," Marrero said.

Cuba's hope is that "this strategic sector finally becomes the motor of the national economy," an ambition that President Raul Castro seconded last Saturday while delivering the extensive report with which he inaugurated the party congress.

Castro announced that the hotel investment program "is moving at a good pace" and recalled that the construction of iconic luxury lodgings in Havana is being resumed "to deal with the shortage of hotel rooms."

"Every hotel that is inaugurated is one more factory that earns, within our borders, revenues from abroad that the country needs," he said.

Since 2011, Cuba has added more than 10,900 new hotel lodgings and another 7,000 that were renovated to the more than 14,000 rented rooms in private homes to create a sector with a growth rate that is steadily catching up with the high demand.

The island welcomed 3.5 million foreign visitors for the first time in 2015 amid the thaw in relations with the United States.