HAVANA — Cuba and Qatar signed an agreement Wednesday to build a $75 million, 450-room resort on a cay south of the island.
The two parties will spend 14 months hammering out financing details for the five-star Gran Paraiso, or “Great Paradise,” said Ghanim Bin Saad al-Saad, president of state-owned Qatar Diar Real Estate Investment Co. Construction would take another year and a half.
The joint project with the communist government’s tourism concern, Gran Caribe, sends “a clear message to the world that Qatar is on Cuba’s side and supports its politics with respect to the rest of the world,” he told reporters.
The resort is planned for Cayo Largo Sur, a strip of white sand, coral reefs and warm, calm waters 105 miles (170 kilometers) south of Havana that is already home to a cluster of high-rise hotels.
The Gran Paraiso will also include 60 retreat villas, and Gran Caribe president Luis Miguel Diaz said it could be expanded in the future.
Tourism is Cuba’s second-largest moneymaker behind nickel exports.
A record 2.35 million foreigners visited last year, mostly from Canada and Europe. That was a 9.3 percent increase over 2007.
Foreign arrivals are up another 2 percent so far this year despite the global economic slowdown.