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Weekly report on Cuba's tourism industry
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Havana Cigars: The Pleasure of Smoke (Second Part)

The well-achieved fame of Cuban tobacco has become today a growing presence of aficionados interested in enjoying cigars produced in Cuba, which offers a perfect combination of excellent soils and climate with a centenarian experience in the cultivation of the aromatic leaves.

Cuba's cigar industry meets the needs of the most demanding clients, with dozens of trade marks and more than 700 brands, all of them of high quality.

The excellent plantations in the eastern province of Pinar del Rio contribute with almost all the leaves used for the outer layers of cigars. These leaves undergo a one-year, 190-operation process before ending up in the hands of a smoker.

For cigar rollers, making a Havana cigar is like creating a work of art, which is 100 percent hand-made. The process of creation begins with the selection of the leaves according to their size and class, as well as the characteristics of each brand.

Experts say that the secret of a good cigar lies in a perfect mixture, where dry and light leaves are combined in the right proportion.

In addition to all this, there is a precise marketing strategy, which includes a joint venture with Cuba's Habanos S.A. The Cuban firm sold 50 percent of its shares to the consortium Altadis, which resulted from a merger between Tabacalera S.A. (Spain) and Seita (France).

The future looks promising, since Altadis is the world's leading company in the distribution of cigars, with a 25-percent share of the international market, in addition to the growing demand for Cuba's main offer, the Premium-type cigar, which weights over three grams and is 100 percent hand-made.

Also, by the end of the year 2001, more than 100 shops all over the world will have a franchise to sell the most famous brands of Cuban cigars, with facilities specially designed for clients to enjoy smoking, and excellent conditions to preserve the product.

The art of specialized cabinetmakers plays an important role in the making of humidors of precious wood, which protect cigars from atmospheric changes and keep their aroma and flavor, turning the humidors into treasures for collectors and cigar aficionados.

The shops offer their select clientele the possibility of enjoying a perfect mixture of Havana cigars, coffee and rum, Cuban products that bear an undisputable seal of quality.

The expansion policy of the Cuban tobacco industry is also betting on covering other segments of the market. That is the case of minicigars (less than three grams), 60 million of which will be commercialized this year.

Cuban cigars, with more than five centuries of history, confirm their condition as "the world's best" and are gaining grounds in all latitudes of the globe.

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