Why Doesn’t Honduras Have a Cigar Festival?

Back in 1999, Habanos S.A. made a bold move. Right after the cigar boom, when sales dropped like lemmings from a cliff, the distribution and marketing company for Cuban cigars decided to host a festival celebrating Cuban cigars in the Cuban capitol of Havana called the Habanos Festival. In the 20+ years after, the festival grew to one of the highlights of the year in the cigar industry with thousands of attendees flying in from all over the world and the festival raises millions of dollars for charity.

A few years later, in 2008, Procigar decided it was time for an annual festival in the Dominican Republic. Procigar is an organization dedicated to maintaining the quality standards and international reputation of Dominican cigars. Every major manufacturer of premium cigars in the Dominican Republic is part of Procigar. Every year since, except for 2021 when the whole world was on a break due to covid-19, the Procigar festival has been organized with visitors from all over the world.

Nicaragua couldn’t stay behind and the Nicaraguan Chamber of Tobacco, formed by the 24 leading companies in tobacco production and cigar manufacturing in the country, decided to throw a festival as well, Puro Sabor. It started off rocky, and it skipped some years but in the last few years it grew out to a fantastic cigar festival with parties, visits to factories and fields and a plain good time for all attendees. Hopefully someday Inspector X can participate in any of these festivals.

But why doesn’t Honduras have a festival? Is it because Honduras as a cigar producing country is underrated? I mean, Cuban cigars have the name and reputation due to its past, a reputation that if you ask me is bigger than the quality of the cigars itself as the standards for Cuban cigars dropped a lot (see our ‘current state of Cuban cigars’ article). Dominican cigars also have a big reputation as the Dominican Republic was the main manufacturer for cigars for the American market after the Cuban embargo, and many great cigars come from the Dominican. Nicaraguan cigars have been on the rise for years, they now produce more tobacco and cigars in Nicaragua than in any other country and the overall quality is fantastic. But hardly anybody talks about Honduran cigars, even though Honduras produces world-class tobacco and the likes of Oscar Valladares, Maya Selva, Christian Eiroa, JRE Tobacco, Rocky Patel, Alec Bradley and Plasencia make fantastic cigars in the country just north of Nicaragua. So, the question is, why don’t Honduran cigar manufacturers celebrate their quality and promote their culture by hosting an annual festival? There was an attempt, Humo Jaguar, in 2011 which was organized by Maya Selva, but there has not been an attempt to organize a second Honduran cigar festival since.

Infrastructure and safety

Some of the people we spoke for this article mentioned infrastructure. There simply aren’t enough hotel rooms with a decent enough quality in the Danli area, where most of the cigars are rolled, to accommodate more than about 80 visitors. Even Esteli in Nicaragua has more accommodations available. That is a problem if you want to host a festival with (hopefully) a few hundred attendees.

Another part of the infrastructure is the road from the airport to Danli. The trip almost takes 4 ours over subpar roads with unattractive scenery. It does not make a good impression on first time visitors to Honduras.

Safety is another subject. Where Esteli is relatively safe, Danli isn’t. True, the crime has gone down in the region over the last decade, but nobody would want groups of tourists wandering the streets as that is asking for trouble. Organized tours to cigar factories by manufacturers are often accompanied by armed guards, something that is impossible to do when there are hundreds of people flogging the streets of Danli for a festival.

Sponsorship and visibility

Hosting a festival like this will cost money. Some of that will flow back to the organizers via festival tickets, but those tickets alone won’t cover all the cost. Getting sponsorship in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic is easier, the biggest cigar companies are active in these countries with their flagship factories. Altadis USA for example runs the biggest cigar factory in the world, Tabacalera Garcia, in the Dominican Republic while there are other major players behind Procigar as well in the likes of La Aurora, Fuente (no presence in Honduras) and Davidoff.

In Nicaragua you have big players such as Drew Estate, Padron, My Father Cigars, Joya de Nicaragua, A.J. Fernandez Cigars, Rocky Patel, Perdomo, Oliva, Plasencia and STG/General Cigars. There are no companies of this magnitude in Honduras.

I hear you think “now wait, doesn’t Davidoff own a factory in Honduras? Don’t STG/General Cigars and Plasencia have factories in Honduras as well? The answer to that is yes, yes, they do. The Diadema Cigars de Honduras factory (also known as the new Camacho factory) is the biggest and most modern factory in Honduras but production is lower from the Davidoff factory in the Dominican Republic, so Davidoff would prefer to show their Dominican operations. The STG Estelí factory is much bigger and nicer to see and visit than the factory in Danli. And while Plasencia’s El Paraiso, where Rocky Patel makes cigars with his own team too, is a beautiful factory, the one in Estelí is nicer. So if you want to showcase your factories, you will always show the best one.

Manpower

Organizing a cigar festival is a monumental task, especially without any experience. The knowledge and know-how isn’t there. Once there is a blueprint, it is much easier to reproduce the next year, but that blueprint isn’t there. None of the cigar manufacturers in Honduras have the manpower to spare to organize a festival like this. Getting a professional commercial organizer on board will bring on extra cost on board, and getting sponsorship is already hard enough as described above.

Do I see possibilities for a Honduran Cigar Festival?

First of all, with the quality of Honduran cigars, I feel that Honduras should have a festival. Honduran cigars are underrated in my humble opinion as well as the history of the Honduran cigar industry. That might be a subject for a next article. But describing the problems above, I don’t think there will be a new version of Humo Jaguar if it all depends on the cigar manufacturers and tobacco growers. More parties need to step up before a new festival can happen. The risk versus reward factor leans more to the risk than reward, unfortunately.

The lack of accommodations can be solved by offering a ‘glamping’ solution, wouldn’t almost every cigar lover want to wake up in a luxury tent in the middle of the tobacco fields, walk out and have breakfast with a cigar and a freshly brewed cup of Honduran coffee, surrounded by lush green Corojo or Habano leaves? I know I would sign up for that option over a boring old hotel room.

The Honduras Tourism Board should step up too. They have the manpower and experience to organize a festival like that, and they have the connections to get more sponsors in, non-cigar sponsors but still, money to help host the festival.

With the Honduras Tourism Board as a partner, it is also possible to get more police protection, or even military protection with more patrols on the street creating a saver Danli during the festivities. That would solve the biggest problems while Honduras will also get a lot of press from a festival like this. If I was a Honduran cigar manufacturer, I would explore if the Honduras Tourism Board would be interested to organize a Honduran Cigar Festival. Honduran cigars deserve it, Honduran cigar manufacturers deserve it.

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