Tourist boom putting pressure on Cuba's beer industry

Francesca Washtell
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Cuba Faces Historic Changes As Relations With U.S. Broaden
Havana has seen a boost in visitor numbers since the US and Cuba eased travel restrictions last year (Source: Getty)

The influx of American tourists into Cuba may have worked wonders for its travel and leisure industry, but the boom has taken a toll on the country’s main brewer.

In recent weeks beer sellers have been running out of the Caribbean island’s two favourite brands, Cristal and Bucanero.

The shortages have been fuelled by the increase in American visitors, as well as a rise in the number of private bars, reported Reuters.

Cerveceria Bucanero, the state-owned brewer which produces both brands, is a joint venture with the world’s largest brewer, Belgium’s Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Bucanero will need a new plant to keep pace the demand from tourists and private restaurants, Mayle Gonzalez, a sales executive at the company, told state media on Friday.

Cuba’s visitor numbers swelled to a record 3.5m in 2015, up 17 per cent from 2014. The number of American tourists, referred to locally as “Yanquis”, rose 77 per cent to 161,000 last year, after travel restrictions were eased in early 2015.

Small restaurants have also added strain to the country’s beer market. Their numbers have blossomed since President Raul Castro formalised changes designed to remove the Communist state from many small-scale economic activities five years ago. They have since become popular with both tourists and local residents.

In March, Starwood Hotels & Resorts announced it would become the first US-based hospitality company to enter the Cuba in nearly 60 years, after it received authorisation from the US Treasury to run three hotels - Hotel Inglaterra, Hotel Quinta Avenida and Hotel Santa Isabel - on the island.

The US embassy was reestablished in Cuba in August 2015, following an agreement between US president Barack Obama and Raul Castro to reinstate diplomatic relations between the two countries in December 2014.

Obama became the first sitting president in 88 years to visit the country last month.

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