The British firm Esencia Hotels and Resorts is to take part in developing a $350-million golf resort on the island in a project approved by Cuba's tourism authorities.

The British ambassador in Cuba, Tim Cole, said in a press release here Friday that this is "the biggest British investment on the island in over a decade and a great step forward" for trade relations between the two countries.

"I hope we can maintain this positive momentum and that we continue strengthening bilateral trade and investment," the diplomat said.

During Cuba's International Tourism Fair held early this month at the touristic seaside resort of Varadero, the island's Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero announced that the Cuban state enterprise Palmares and the British firm Esencia Hotels and Resorts agreed to constitute a joint venture.

The development some 15 kilometers (9 miles) from Varadero will cover 170 hectares (420 acres) and will include an 18-hole golf course, a luxury hotel and a community of some 650 apartments, 200 homes, a shopping mall and a club with tennis courts, spa and a yachting association.

"This could be the first of several similar projects, considering the interest of the Cuban government in giving golf a prominent place in the country's tourism industry," the British diplomat said.

The Cuban government plans for at least 11 real estate developments associated with golf tourism around the island, according to the Tourism Ministry.

The Caribbean island received more than 2.8 million foreign tourists in 2012, some 4.5 percent more than in 2011, and this year hopes to welcome more than 3 million international visitors. EFE