Thirsty American Tourists Responsible for Cuban Beer Shortage

In the last year, American tourism to Cuba has increased 77 percent, which may explain why Cuban bars are running low on beer
Thirsty American Tourists Responsible for Cuban Beer Shortage

State-run bars must rely on the government for their supply of beer, while businesses in the private sector have greater control. 

As a once-frosty diplomatic relationship between Cuba and the United States eases up for the first time in nearly six decades, many Americans are taking advantage of easing tensions to visit Cuba for the first time ever.

However, a boom in American tourists, though good for the Cuban economy, has also come with a significant downside — a beer shortage. American visitors flooding the island have reportedly caused Cuba to run low on Cristal, the country’s most popular brew, and Bucanero, manufactured by Anheuser Busch InBev in partnership with the government of Cuba.

Aside from the demands of tourism, a growing Cuban restaurant industry is also contributing to the shortage, forcing Cuban brewers to expand production as well as import beer from elsewhere. For state-run bars, proprietors have access only to what the state will allow, while privately-owned bars and restaurants have more freedom to deal with distributors.

“Private bars can go out and find supplies where they can, I can only sell what the government gives me,” the manager of a state-run bar that ran out of beer told Reuters. A private bar upstairs, meanwhile, was fully stocked.

American tourism to Cuba, especially from Cuban-Americans looking to reconnect to their roots, is only expected to grow. In March, President Obama became the first sitting president to visit Cuba in nearly a century. In the last year, American visitors rose 77 percent in Cuba, to 161,000, in addition to hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans. 

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