19th Cuban Cigar Festival opens after strong 2016 sales

Cuba

The 19th Cuban Cigar Festival opened in Havana on Monday with the industry in a buoyant mood following encouraging sales figures for 2016. Despite uncertainties in the global economy and the threat of anti-smoking laws, Cuban cigar sales rose last year.

CGTN’s Michael Voss reports from Havana.

19th Cuban Cigar Festival opens after strong 2016 sales

The 19th Cuban Cigar Festival opened in Havana on Monday with the industry in a buoyant mood following encouraging sales figures for 2016. Despite uncertainties in the global economy and the threat of anti-smoking laws, Cuban cigar sales rose last year. CGTN’s Michael Voss reports from Havana.

This year’s Havana Cigar Festival has attracted some two thousand, mainly wealthy, cigar aficionados from around the world. These are an expensive luxury but one that people are still prepared to spend money on.

At an opening news conference, the company announced that it sold $445 million work of hand rolled cigars in 2016, an increase of 5 percent from the previous year.

“It was really a great challenge, and we are proud of the results. This is an uncertain world, with difficult scenarios, but we were well-prepared to face all these scenarios,” Enrique Babot Marketing Director at Habanos said.

Cuba still can’t sell directly to the U.S market because of the trade embargo, but elsewhere Cuban cigars account for 70% of premium cigar sales worldwide in terms of numbers sold and 80% in terms of value.

The company, Habanos S.A. is a joint venture between the Cuban state cigar company and Britain’s Imperial Tobacco.

Spain, France and China are the top three markets for imported Cuban cigars. Last year saw a record 4 million tourists visiting Cuba, including a large number of Americans, who are now allowed to legally bring cigars home for personal use.

Every year at the festival, Cuba launches some new cigars and this year the trend seems to be for smaller, shorter cigars. There are some new larger ones, but there is a growing demand for cigars which don’t take too long to smoke.

The five day cigar festival includes visits to the cigar factories to see how they are rolled by hand, and to the tobacco fields in Pinar Del Rio province, where the finest quality tobacco leaves are grown.

But it’s also an opportunity to try the new releases in an environment without the anti-smoking restrictions now found in so much of the world.