HAVANA – Joint Cuban-Spanish firm Habanos in 2016 took in $445 million in sales, a 5 percent hike over the year before in an adverse year for luxury goods.
The annual business figures for the company, equally divided into state-run Tabacuba and the Spanish entity belonging to the British Imperial Tobacco group, were released Monday at the start of the 19th International Cigar Festival, which more than 2,000 people from 50 countries are attending through Friday in Havana.
“It’s been a very good year ... when you compare us with the luxury industry, which remained rather flat ... last year,” the co-president of Habanos S.A., Spaniard Luis Sanchez-Harguindey, told EFE.
The main market for Habanos are Spain, France, China, Germany, Cuba and Switzerland, countries where the firm makes more than 50 percent of its total sales.
The “recovery” of these “traditional markets” for Cuban cigars – mainly Spain and France – is one of the factors the firm points to in explaining its growth in 2016, along with the increase in sales in emerging markets such as Eastern Europe, and Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Latin America.
Habanos’ vice president for development Javier Terres, said that results were also influenced by the much-publicized anniversary of the iconic Cohiba brand last year, “a phenomenon that helped a lot in the year’s business figures.”
Another reason for the sales increase was the rise in tourism in Cuba, which last year broke a record by welcoming four million tourists.
In addition, the island’s tobacco industry late in 2016 received more good news: a new easing of US sanctions that allowed travelers from that country to bring home in their luggage an unlimited amount of Cuban tobacco and rum products for their personal use.
Through October 2016, Americans visiting the communist island could only legally import upon their return home $400 worth of Cuban products, including $100 worth of alcohol and tobacco.
The move, one of the last that the Barack Obama administration made with respect to Cuba, in any case didn’t have much impact on the firm’s 2016 sales figures.
Entering into force only in October, “the effect on business volume was not significant,” said Terres, and despite the new rule, the US market remains blocked to Habanos S.A. because of Washington’s embargo on Cuba.
The firm, which sells its hand-made products in 150 countries under 27 different brand names, says it accounts for 70 percent by volume and 80 percent by value of the world cigar market of an estimated 450 million units per year, not counting the US market.