You mean Americans went somewhere and drank a bunch of beer? Shock.
Evidently, since Obama eased travel restrictions to Cuba this past February, the US-Cuban tourism has been booming. Which makes sense – since the embargo in 1960, the island nation has been closed off from Americans. It is about time we got another look.
But what happened next is something inexplicably American – we drank them out of beer. Cristal, Cacique, Mayabe, and Bucanero have become rarities on the island thanks to this increase in thirsty American tourists.
And it makes sense. Americans love beer like the French like cheese. Or like how the Italians like cheese. Or the swiss. Everyone likes cheese.
The real issue is that Cuba was hit with 3.5 million new visitors last year, putting a lot of strain on many tourism based industries, such as hotels, rental cars, and restaurant space. Also, Cuba is rapidly expanding its “private sector” insofar as restaurants and entertainment is concerned, meaning that state-run stores are now going to have competition for inventory and sales.
To put it simply, the number of places to buy beer are going up, while the amount of beer on the island is the same. The inventory is getting spread too thin, and there are too many new thirsty faces showing up looking for a cold one.
Another challenge is with Cuba’s background as a communist state, meaning that all the inventory going to it’s state-run stores are predetermined by the government. So while the new “private” establishments can furnish themselves with ample reserves of beer and food, the state-run stores are repeatedly finding themselves with empty shelves.
That is not to say that this is all a problem. In fact, in many ways, this is a problem some might like to have. It shows that there is still room for economic growth. In fact, Cuban brewery Bucanero is looking to open its second plant to increase production. They are also planning on importing from neighboring islands. 3 million cases of the Dominican beer Presidente are expected to arrive over the course of this next year.
So while this brief beer draught could be cause for alarm by some, others see it as the rebirth of one of Cuba’s bedrock industries – tourism. And thanks to this influx of thirsty tourists, businesses like Bucanero and the various private restaurants in Havana and elsewhere are all looking at a pretty big windfall in the coming months.