The Cuban economy continues its voyage through turbulent waters. In 2016, the country suffered the reduction of fuel supply from Venezuela and faced different financial tensions that brought about a 0.9 percent decrease of the GDP.In 2017, the authorities look forward to regaining some lost ground and growing up to 2 percent. Reaching that figure requires key sectors of the national economy, such as the marketing of medical services, tourism, tobacco, rum and telecommunications, to improve their outcomes from previous years. PanamericanWorld proposes an approach to the five most prestigious Cuban companies around the world, with megabuck incomes every year and jobs for a significant number of workers.
Cuban habanos are the most famous cigars on the face of earth. The high quality of their leaves, combined with the hand-making process carried out by skillful cigar rollers, turn this Premium product into a symbol of the country. Cuba’s cigars, with 20 emblematic brands such as Cohiba, Montecristo, Partagás, Romeo y Julieta, presently represent 70 percent of the 400 million units sold every year in the global market. In 2016, Habanos S.A (a joint venture between State-run Cubatabaco and Altadis, a French-German subsidiary of British multinational Imperial Tobacco), reported 445 million dollars in terms of sales, a 5 percent increase if compared to 2015. Nowadays, the habanos are sold in 150 international markets, with Spain, France, China and Germany as the main buyers. Habanos is still not allowed to enter the U.S. market because of the embargo; nevertheless, the package of measures implemented by former president Barack Obama included the authorization for visitors to carry up to 100 Cuban cigars back to the North American territory.
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Biotechnology is also one of the Cuban economy’s most important exports. In 2012, the authorities decided to create BioCubaFarma Business Group, which engulfed 38 institutions managed by the Scientific Hub, west of Havana, and QUIMEFA Business Group. This Group coordinates the work of 31 companies and employs 22 thousand people. Over the past five years, the Group has exported an annual average of more than five billion dollars in biotechnological products.
Heberprot-P is likely to be BioCubaFarma Business Group’s most prestigious product, since it is a one-of-a-kind medicine. This drug is highly useful when treating the diabetic foot ulcer. It stimulates the formation of scar tissue and works as an injectable cytoprotectant, based on the recombinant human growth factor, by directly infiltrating the wound. According to international statistics, over 60 percent of diabetic patients with ulcers in their feet undergo an amputation; nevertheless, thanks to the use of Heberprot-P, the amputation risk has fallen below 1 percent. Heberprot-P is presently registered in over 30 countries and has benefited more than 300 thousand people.
The list of Cuban biotechnological products marketed around the world includes:
- Vaccine against meningitis types B and C
- Polyvalent vaccine against Haemophilus influenzae, type b
- Recombinant vaccine against hepatitis B.
- Interferon types like alpha-interferon.
- Over a hundred monoclonal antibodies.
- Recombinant streptokinase to treat acute myocardial infarction (MI).
- Enzymes for industrial use.
- Policosanol (PPG) to treat atherogenic lipidemias.
- Diagnostic systems for such diseases as AIDS-HIV and lipoproteins.
- Epidermal growth factor.
- Medical equipment and computing programs.
- Ultra-Micro Analytic System (SUMA is the Spanish acronym).
- Recombinant human erithropoietin for patients that suffer from chronic kidney failure.
The Cuban biotechnological industry is presently ranked, along with India’s and Brazil’s, among the three leaders of that sector in developing countries.
In 2016, Cuba welcomed four million tourists. It was the first time in its history. In the first quarter of this year, the arrival of visitors has been on the rise, so a new record could be announced by the end of December. The hoteliers are happy with this increase and the main hotel chains with properties on the island nation are already planning to expand their business (with Meliá and Iberostar taking center stage); while other companies, especially from France, have made megabuck investments in the construction or remodeling of their facilities. The travel industry is described as the second source of incomes for Cuba, only surpassed by the marketing of medical services overseas. Gaviota is one of the main hotel groups in the country, which manages over 50 hotels (3, 4 and 5 stars) nestled in the main tourism regions of Cuba (Pinar del Río, Havana, Varadero, Topes de Collantes, the keys north of Villa Clara, Jardines del Rey, Holguin, Santiago de Cuba and Baracoa). Gaviota has a strong presence in Varadero and the keys of Villa Clara, in partnership with such groups as Royalton, Iberostar and Meliá. Moreover, Gaviota manages five marinas, a travel agency and a transport company.
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HAVANA CLUB INTERNACIONAL S.A (CUBARON AND PERNOD RICARD FROM FRANCE)
Cuban rums are internationally famous, especially Havana Club, which comes out of the aging process applied to the cane eau-de-vie that spends over two years in casks made of American white oak. Havana Club is the merger between State-run CubaRon and French Pernod Ricard (each party controls 50 percent of the business). This brand has been registered in over 140 countries and it is presently marketed in nearly 130 nations (it is not present in the United States because of the Embargo). In 2016, the company sold 118.5 million dollars, after marketing 4.2 million nine-liter rum boxes, which include white rums, 3 years, white aged rum and the entire range of dark rums. Cuba is the main market of Havana Club, followed by Europe, Canada, Mexico and Chile. British Drink International magazine has positioned Havana Club between the 21st and 23rd steps of its top 100 ranking of world brands.
Cuba only has one telecommunications company, known by the Spanish initials of its name (ETECSA). This group manages all voice communications (mobile phones and landlines). Since 2013, its portfolio of services includes the marketing of Internet connections for all citizens, by means of Wi-Fi public access spots, located throughout the country. Moreover, ETECSA manages a national network of trade offices where several products are sold out.