For cigar aficionado Jonathan Barbeau, Havana was the place to be in March.
“I knew it would be great, but it turned out to be phenomenal,” Barbeau said of the 19th Festival del Habano (Habano Festival) that attracted some 2,000 cigar enthusiasts and distributors to Cuba. “I found the festival to be the single greatest cigar event that I’ve ever gone to.”
This was the first time Barbeau, general manager of New Hampshire’s Two Guys Smoke Shop and host of the Cigar Authority Radio Show attended the annual festival held by state-run manufacturer Habanos SA. Each year, it attracts cigar lovers to Havana from more than 50 countries for seminars, tastings and tours of the Habanos tobacco plantation in Pinar del Río province’s Vuelta Abajo as well as the H. Upmann and La Corona factories. The Habanos company markets 27 hand-rolled brands, including the iconic Cohiba, Partagas, Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta. Habanos cigars are sold in over 150 countries.
“We are very satisfied with our business evolution in 2016,” said Luis Sanchez-Harguindey, co-president of Habanos, during the festival. And for good reason. Worldwide sales in 2016 came to $445 million, a 5 percent increase from 2015, despite a “challenging marketing environment” that included inclement weather affecting Cuba’s tobacco crop for the last few years. “We have a very solid base to face 2017 with great optimism.”