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Business in Cuba

FIHAV 2016 – the International Trade Fair in Havana

Product displays at the FIHAV in Havana, the most important business and trade fair in Latin America. This fair is a must-attend event for those wishing to startup a business in Cuba. Photo: Cuba Business Report staff.

Everything you need to know about attending FIHAV 2016:

The FIHAV is the annual international trade fair held at the ExpoCuba Exhibition complex in Havana. It is the most important trade fair in Cuba and the entire Latin American region. The 34rd edition of the FIHAV will take place from October 31 to November 4, 2016.

The ExpoCuba grounds cover 600,000m2 of which 25,000m2 is available for exhibition space (25 pavilions) for countries and companies interested in doing business with Cuba.

Exhibiting at last year’s FIHAV, Cuba and more than 82 other countries showcased their products and services.  It is probably the most exciting event for trade and commerce to take place in Havana each year.

Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca, said on opening day last year, “This entire process has aroused international interest.”  It certainly has.

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Of last year’s exhibitors, there were 365 Cuban national corporations, as well as Spanish (with four pavilions), Chinese and Canadian businesses.  Other countries which participated with pavilions included Italy, China, South Africa, Venezuela, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Thailand, Japan, Bulgaria, Curacao and Russia.  These countries are all actively engaged with Cuba establishing trade relationships and businesses on the Island.  In total last year, approximately 900 international corporations displayed their products at the FIHAV.


Inside one of the pavilions at the FIHAV in Havana.

If you are planning on doing business in Cuba, you should not miss attending the FIHAV. Attendance at the FIHAV trade fair is a prerequisite for those who wish to expand into the Cuban market or startup a business in Cuba. The fair targets international business people. Booth spaces can be arranged with the embassy of your country. Last year’s trade fair was the biggest in its 33 year history. This year’s numbers are expected to be much higher as many countries are actively pursuing relations with Cuba before the end of the American embargo.

Industry sectors include the following categories:

  • Automotive
  • Chemicals
  • Agriculture and Processed Foods
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Ocean Technologies
  • Wine, Beer and Spirits
  • Consumer Products
  • Defence and Security
  • Oil and Gas
  • Mining
  • Transportation
  • Education
  • Life Sciences
  • Industrial Machinery
  • Forestry and Wood Products
  • Information and Communications Technologies
  • Infrastructure
  • Sustainable Technologies

At last year’s FIHAV, sponsored pavilions exhibited everything from automotive parts, food products, home appliances and furniture, technology, wines and liquor, construction materials, oil and gas investment opportunities, pharmaceutical products, health care technology and more. Large multinational corporations are rushing in to find and develop new markets and investments with Cuba.

Spain held the biggest presence with four pavilions at last year’s FIHAV. Canada also occupied a huge pavilion at the FIHAV. The Canadian pavilion featured companies selling clean technologies, oceanographic, industrial tools, agro exporters, paper products, biotechnology and biological science innovations.

Cuba’s national corporations also exhibited at individual pavilions throughout the FIHAV fairgrounds. Well recognized Cuban industries including CUPET, the national oil company, the ZED Mariel zone project, major biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies such as PharmaCuba, BioCuba Pharma and Heber Biotech SA, cigar manufacturers, Cerveza Tinima Cervasas y Maltas, Empresa de Bedidas y Refrescos of Pinar del Rio, Montecristo cigars, Quimimpex Import & Export and Confihar brands as well as Castrol Cuba, S.A. could be found.

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There are many reasons to attend FIHAV Havana this year. For other countries, it has been a proven entry strategy into Cuba.  Important to note is that Cuban buyers consider attendance at FIHAV a part of the pre-selection process. Exhibiting at your country’s pavilion establishes both the reputation of your brand and a level of endorsement by your government for Cuban business interests. Exhibiting at FIHAV has been a proven growth strategy for international companies in Cuba. A business presence at FIHAV can result in finalized sales contracts for corporations in sometimes as little as six to 12 months.

Cuba has immense market potential. Access to these markets requires a presence.  The FIHAV presents an opportunity to network with the key players in the Cuban market.


With the recent changes in the Cuba-US relationship, it is expected a few more American companies will attend this year’s trade fair. Unfortunately there was not a huge American presence at last year’s FIHAV. American business persons can legally attend conferences under specific licenses from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC):

“Attendance at certain international professional conferences or meetings taking place in Cuba. Travel under a General License to a professional conference or meeting is limited to those conferences or meetings organized by an international entity not based in Cuba or the United States and which regularly organizes conferences and meetings in other countries. If the conference is organized by a Cuban institution  or organization, then a full-time professional must obtain a Specific License from OFAC to attend.”  Source

Once the embargo is lifted, it is expected that many American corporations will participate freely and the competition for booths and business will become fierce.

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Internet access and mobile phones can be purchased at the ETECSA booth.

There is also a food court with several dining establishments available for when the hunger sets in.

It is advised that one attends the opening events of the first day of the FIHAV.  Important speeches are given on opening day by key trade officials.  It will take at least one full day to walk and view the entire exhibition grounds just for observation purposes.

The FIHAV Havana International Trade Fair in Havana is located at the ExpoCuba Exhibition Complex on highway Carretera del Rocío, Km 3 ½, in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, about 25 Km southeast of downtown Havana.

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Tickets are 100 CUCs per person.

Read more about FIHAV Havana on the official website here. (Spanish and English).

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