Cuba running low on beer as thirsty US tourists descend

Cuba running low on beer as thirsty US tourists descend

Shortages prompt island’s main brewer to consider opening a new plant and importing beer from outside the country to keep pace with growing demand

An influx of tourists from the US is placing pressure on Cuba’s hospitality industry.
An influx of tourists from the US is placing pressure on Cuba’s hospitality industry. Photograph: Valerio Berdini/REX/Shutterstock

Brewer Bucanero needs a new plant to keep pace with demand from tourists and a burgeoning private restaurant sector that competes with state-run outlets for supplies, Mayle Gonzalez, a sales executive at the company, said on Saturday..

Local media reported that Cuba’s breweries signed contracts this week for more than 33m cases of beer at a business in Havana, considerably more than their current production capability will allow. Bucanero is reportedly planning to import 3m cases of beer from Dominica to keep up with demand.

After US president Barack Obama eased travel restrictions to Cuba in February, American tourists have started descending on Cuba in significant numbers, a trend that is expected to continue.

Hundreds will step off a cruise ship from Miami into the city in May, the first such voyage since the US embargo that followed Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.

While the embargo remains in place, ordinary Cubans have warmed to their “Yanqui” visitors, especially after Obama’s visit to Cuba in March, the first by a sitting US president in 88 years.

Cuba received a record 3.5 million visitors last year, up 17% from 2014. American visitors rose 77% to 161,000, in addition to hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans, testing the country’s supply of hotel room, rental cars and beer.

The most recent tourism figures, for January, showed a similar pace of growth.

Small restaurants that cater to both tourists and Cubans have blossomed on the Caribbean island since president Raul Castro five years ago formalised changes designed to remove the Communist state from many small-scale economic activities.

“Private bars can go out and find supplies where they can, I can only sell what the government gives me,” said the manager of a state-run bar that ran out of beer, while a private bar upstairs had a fridge full of cold bottles.

Reuters contributed to this report

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