Esteemed Delegates and Friends:
Welcome to the VII International Habano´s Festival and to another International Habano´s Seminar.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you here.
Today, we are welcoming both old and new friends to this Festival, which Habanos, S.A., holds in this city every year.
I am very pleased to be welcoming so many of you from all over the world who are accompanying us during these days of celebration, discussion, learning and renewal of old friendships, inspired by a single passion: Habanos. Every year, we greet more friends—over 1300 of you are attending this Festival.
This year, we are celebrating the 160th anniversary of the creation of the Partagás brand. Therefore, we dedicate this Festival to it.
Partagás is the name of one of the most prestigious cigar factories in Cuba. Founded in 1845, it is the oldest one still in operation. It was called La Real Fábrica de Partagás (The Royal Partagás Cigar Factory) because Partagás cigars were made for the aristocrats and high-ranking individuals of that era.
Partagás, a big name ever since its creation, has been a favorite of the most demanding smokers. Every cigar-lover is familiar with Partagás Lusitanias, 8-9-8 and Partagás Serie D No. 4—to cite just a few examples of the impression this brand has made on all of us.
This year, the Festival has several wonderful treats for smokers of Habanos, including smoking sessions with sizes made especially for you and an auction of exclusive humidors that are collectors’ items, made by prestigious Cuban artists.
In addition, we will have a master class in which you can test your skills in making one of the most popular cigar sizes—the Petit Robusto—and roll your own cigar.
There will also be an International Habano sommelier Contest, in which participants will answer questions and demonstrate their skills.
But the best, most eagerly-awaited part will be the world launching of a new size of the Partagás brand: the Partagás Serie P No. 2.
You will be the first people in the world to smoke this new jewel of Habanos.
The Serie P No. 2 is made by hand of leaves carefully selected from the best tobacco plantations in the Vuelta Abajo area. They come in the 52-gauge pyramid (or torpedo) size, that is 6 inches (156 millimeters) long. Their blend—created by experts—bears the seal of this brand and the distinctive taste of its world-famous Series line, whose standard-bearer is the Partagás Series D No. 4.
Your presence here in this International Seminar shows that you enjoy smoking Habanos while hearing legends and stories about them and learning about their history, the art of making them and up-to-the-minute news about Havanos on the world scene. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to make a few comments about the most important aspects of the Habanos, S.A., Corporation’s work.
In 2004, Habanos were further consolidated as an exclusive product and absolute leader of the world market for premium cigars, accounting for around 30 percent of total world sales and 70 percent of the sales in the more than 120 countries in which they are sold.
Likewise, the House of Habanos international network of shops was strengthened as a reference point for retail sales of Habanos at the world level. Now, there are around 90 Houses of Habanos, in some of the most important cities in the world.
One example of the achievements scored by this chain of shops was the Frontier Magazine Award, which the House of Habanos in the main airport in Lebanon won during the October 2004 Cannes Fair, when it was chosen as the best duty-free and retail-travel shop at the world level.
To kick off this Festival, we held a Houses of Habanos Workshop—for the first time ever. In it, the franchise-holders of all Houses of Habanos at the world level met last Monday for their annual work meeting.
During the past year, the Habanos, S.A., Corporation concentrated its efforts in two main lines: excellence in quality and an assortment that meets the expectations of all smokers of Habanos—especially those who prefer the most exclusive brands. Quality controls are applied to 100 percent of our cigars, in all stages of production.
In response to our clients’ demands, we have enriched the portfolio of Habanos with new sizes and packaging, and the international network of Houses of Habanos and the most prestigious specialty shops in the world have offered new, limited editions and special products for a more elitist segment.
One of the most important events during the past year was the creation of a new vitola for the Montecristo brand: the Edmundo, which was launched on the world market in Paris last May, in a size created exclusively for this brand.
The Edmundo captivated everyone and achieved immediate market success.
In just a few months, it became an indispensable size for Montecristo cigars all over the world. Last December, Duty-Free News International magazine selected the Edmundo for its Best New Product of the Year Award for cigars.
Another aspect of our corporation’s work was its battle against smuggling and falsifications—against which luxury Habanos must be protected.
Now, thanks to the close working relations that have been established between Habanos, S.A., and the Customs House of the Republic of Cuba, Customs controls have been increased, with ever more effective measures.
This year, we will continue working in all these areas, seeking to achieve even better results and meeting new challenges.
2005 will be a very special year for all who love the Partagás brand.
In addition to the new Series P No. 2 vitola, the Habanos Corporation will be offering its good friends a new concept, the most exclusive in Habanos: a product called the Reserva Habano.
A new offer for the most exclusive smokers, the first of the Reserva Habanos will be launched this year: the Partagás Series D No. 4 Reserva.
I know that you are eager for this Seminar to begin, so the prestigious members of the panel can share their knowledge of the topics that are contained in the program with you, and I thank them for their presence.
In closing, I wish you days of intensive, fruitful work that will meet your expectations and a pleasant stay in this city, which has opened its doors to you and offered you its most valuable treasure: Habanos.
There are many treats in store for you this year.
Once again, welcome! Thank you very much.
Mr. Manuel García Morejón. Commercial Vice-President.