The 19th International Havana Cigar Festival, dedicated to three of the national brands with the greatest tradition in the specialised markets – H.Upmann, Montecristo and Quai d’Orsay – started early this week with the news confirming tobacco as one of the sectors that maintains dynamism in the Cuban economy.
The Habanos S.A. Company’s marketing director, Enrique Babot Espinosa, announced during the opening of the Festival that last year the sale of Cuban cigars registered a five per cent growth in the world, closing with incomes of 445 million dollars. A part is for exports and the other for sales inside the Caribbean island.
The company’s vice president, Javier Terré, said the increase was due to a more active global promotion in 2016 of a Cuban leading brand, Cohíba, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary that year. To this was added, he said in a press conference, a recovery of traditional Premium (hand-rolled) cigar markets, especially Spain, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
The presidency of Habanos S.A. is confident that the commercial reanimation will continue this year. There are more than 150 markets in the world where that company sells the multiple vitolas of the hand-rolled cigars that distinguish Cuban cigars worldwide. Fifty per cent of the sales are carried out in Spain, France, China, Germany, Cuba and Switzerland.
Cuba covers 70 per cent of the world market for Premium cigars, estimated at 400 million physical units (except for the United States), and 80 per cent in shares.
The 19th International Havana Cigar Festival was held in the Havana Convention Centre, with some 2,000 delegates, exhibitors and guests from 50 countries.
Before the accredited press, Terré applauded the growth of tourism in Cuba. The arrival of visitors in 2016 totalled more than four million, a tendency that had an influence in the 13 per cent hike in the sale of Havana cigars inside the country. This sector can grow more in 2017 due to strong increase previewed in U.S. visitors.
In 2016 the United States climbed to third place among the markets issuing visitors, after Canada and the Cuban community abroad. Two years ago, the United States ranked in seventh place.
Trips from that country gained speed after the announcement by the Cuban and U.S. governments in December 2014 of the start of talks to normalise relations. Two new factors can expand more those visits this year and benefit directly Habanos S.A.: the start of regular flights by several U.S. airlines to Havana and the recent elimination of obstacles for U.S. citizens to make personal purchases in Cuba, among which cigars hold a privileged position.
The vice president of Habanos S.A. is confident that the sales inside the country will grow due to more U.S. visitors. In his opinion, Cuba’s agriculture and industry are prepared to assume that possible increase.
Participants in the Festival visited tobacco plantations in the leading province in the cultivation of the leaf, Pinar del Río. The producers told them that this year they expect a better harvest if the current favourable weather conditions continue. (2017)
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