As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect events around the world, it might be forcing one of the biggest cigar festivals to become a virtual event.
While Habanos S.A. has not yet made an official announcement, a source familiar with the discussions confirmed to halfwheel that the Cuban cigar company is exploring the feasibility of taking its Festival del Habano online for 2021.
News of this development comes as Habanos S.A. has still not yet announced dates for the 2021 installment of the Festival, which would otherwise be scheduled for the second half of February. The company generally makes that announcement in September, while it typically opens registration for the Festival in mid-November, something else that has not occurred.
The 2020 Festival took place from Feb. 24-28.
The Festival del Habano brings distributors, retailers and consumers to Havana for a number of events and activities, including visits to Cuban cigar factories and tobacco farms, educational seminars, a trade show, cigar rolling class, the International Habanos World Challenge contest, and several lavish dinners capped off by the final night’s activities which includes an auction of elaborate humidors. The company also announces several new cigars during the Festival, often highlighting a particular brand while revealing things like upcoming Edición Limitada releases.
So far, Cuba has recorded 7,667 cases of COVID-19, with 131 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine’s online tracking portal. To combat the spread, the country has implemented some aggressive clamping down of activity within the country, including imposing fines for not wearing face masks. It also effectively shut down its borders to visitors in mid-March, limiting the possibility for the disease to be brought into the country. On Nov. 15, Cuba reopened its biggest airport, José Marti International Airport in Havana, just ahead of peak tourist season, which runs from November through March.
While a virtual Festival del Habano would be a new concept, Habanos S.A. did get a bit of a trial run with a virtual event earlier this year, as it participated in the Moodie Davitt Virtual Travel Retail Expo in October, announcing the Trinidad Robustos Extra Travel Humidor during that event.