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Habanos are leading the pack among premium or hand-rolled cigars in the world market regardless of the economic crisis and other negative factors, Habanos S.A. marketing vice president Manuel Garcia was quoted as saying.

The expert, who featured a keynote speech before attendees to the 12th Habano Festival, said the international corporation is currently selling habanos in over 160 countries and chalked up $360 million worth of business revenues in 2009.

Among the negative factors in the period, Mr. Garcia mentioned the global economic crisis, the A (H1N1) flu virus, the antismoking campaigns and climbing taxes levied on those products in certain markets.

Even though sales of deluxe items skidded worldwide somewhere between 8 and 12 percent in 2009, habanos were among the least affected products thanks to their high demand and quality. In fact, their market share ramped up 1 percent to total 71 percent in terms of sales per unit, compared to 70 percent in 2008. They also held on to an 80 percent of the total value, though revenues in sales per unit slumped 8 percent and total values plunged by 7 percent.

He referred to duty-free sales in airports and marinas as major indicators, comprising as much as 25 percent of total sales, with the sole exception of the United States.

Europe, both Western and Eastern, continues to be the main market a whopping 64 percent of all habano sales worldwide. The ranking list is topped by Spain and France, followed by Germany, China (including Macao and Hong Kong), Lebanon, Switzerland and Greece.

Despite a slumping year, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region remained the steadiest markets and their potentials are on the rise.

The Casa del Habano world network currently boasts 146 stores, while half a dozen of the more luxurious Cohiba Atmosphere establishments showed up. Another highlight was the emergence of the Castillo del Morro outlets for habano sales.

Among the bestselling brands, Montecristo took the cake –especially Montecristo No. 4- with as much as 31 percent of all total sales.

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