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PCA 2023: Wrap Up Thoughts with Matt Tabacco

August 19, 2023 By Matthew Tabacco

 

 

The coverage of the 2023 Premium Cigar Association Trade Show and Convention brought to you by Drew Estate has come to a close. Thank you to everyone for making it another great year. First and foremost, I want to thank our team of which we couldn’t have done any of this without. There are still some things I feel we can improve on but over all this was the best show we not only have attended but covered.

There are a few takeaways I wanted to share with you that I felt deserved to be highlighted following the show. Next year is a new year, maybe some of the concerns or issues will get better and maybe they will not. Only time will tell.

The Final Show at Venetian Expo

This was the final PCA show that will take place at the Venetian Expo (Formerly Sands Expo) and I think that it is probably for the best. While it is nice being at a nice resort while attending the trade show, it was also causing costs for everyone to be much more elevated. It is also no secret that the PCA didn’t get the best deal on that contract as well.

Plus, it also isn’t a secret that the Venetian clearly didn’t enjoy having the cigar industry around. There have been complaints about smoking outside of the smoking areas and the trade show floor area and the mass smoking that over crowds the bars and lounges on the casino floor such as at the popular Bar Luca at the Palazzo. In addition, the crowds at Bar Luca are so big they spill into the walkway that leads to the hotel room elevators causing other guest to wade through clouds of unwanted cigar smoke.

Next year in 2024, we will be attending the show at the Las Vegas Convention Center and using Resorts World as a host hotel. Resorts World has a larger casino plus Eight Lounge where I am sure many activities will take place. In 2025, we will be leaving Las Vegas for New Orleans, Louisiana. So far this is a single year contract and plans beyond that have not been confirmed. This is something many people have called for, but also something many people have dreaded because of the conditions of the last trade show in New Orleans. New Orleans also doesn’t have the best accommodations and smoke friendly areas that Las Vegas does. Time will tell whether enough smoking exemptions will make this show more enjoyable than feared.

Final July Show

This is going to be the final show that we attend in July, another aspect that in the long run I think it is going to help with attendance and traffic at the show. Many retailers and manufactures have complained about the timing of the show in recent years stating that they wished it was earlier in the year. However, the major downside to this is that Q1 is the busiest time of the year for the industry where we already have the TPE show, all three of the major festivals: Puro Sabor (Nicaragua), ProCigar (Dominican Republic) and Festival del Habano (Cuba), as well as all of the factory tours manufacturers host. The TAA convention announced they would move to the Fall in response.

The Return of “Big”

So far, since the previous announcement, three of the Big Four companies have returned and committed to the 2024 show. We saw Forged Cigar Co (General/STG) and Altadis USA at the 2023 show with Drew Estate’s sales reps manning the Joya de Nicaragua booth. in 2024, Forged, Altadis, and Drew Estate have all committed to booth space. Moving the show earlier in the year was only one aspect of the Big Four pulling out but it would appear enough changes have been made to bring them back.

In terms of excitement, the Forged booth had much more excitement than the Altadis USA booth. The Forged booth was large and welcoming and featured many different facets due to the variety of their brands and the brand ambassadors that accompany them. Smokin Tabacco was also treated extremely well and welcomed. Altadis USA seemed as if they were too busy for us and while we visited the booth several times Rafeal was nowhere to be seen and the staff seemed uninterested in speaking with us so they did not get covered. Hopefully they get their acts together and have a better presence at PCA 2024.

PCA In-House Media

One aspect that was rolled out a month or so before the tradeshow was the PCA had hired Antoine Reid to do full blown media coverage for the PCA. When asked, the PCA said this was to “stay better connected with retailers and consumers who either don’t know or don’t know enough about the PCA.” Personally, many of us could argue that the media and spreading the word of the PCA and its doings is the job of us who do media already every day. By doing so, we are paying annual dues to the PCA to compete against us.

Companies like Nova Cigar chose to give the PCA exclusive access to its PCA 2023 announcement and the rest of us who have known them and worked with them weren’t even notified and found out through the PCA media releases. The PCA also had Antoine go and chase down exclusive stories manufacturers had released with media outlets for their own site which is something we would suspect from each other, but not an organization we pay dues to.

Three Day Show

The PCA also quietly announced that the 2024 show would be the first to not feature the half day on Tuesday. The show has been a three-and-a-half-day show for quite a while but now the show will run Saturday to Monday instead of 1 PM on Tuesday. Many complained the traffic becomes so low it isn’t worth the cost of being there. The only people this really affects is the media who uses every hour of the show time to cover it.

Seminars

One thing I think is going well for the PCA is its seminars. While they may sound boring and uninteresting, they actually were very well attended, and I heard almost nothing but praise. Especially from the Toscano and Hand Rolled series premier sessions which seemed to be the most attended. Last year, Carlito Fuente and Jose Blanco hosted a tasting seminar with a special cigar with 13 different kinds of tobacco in it which was a major hit. Then there was the Oz Pearlman session, and for those who don’t know much about who he is, he is a mentalist. I will let you do your own research on him, but I will say while I couldn’t stay for that one, I didn’t hear a lot about it. Whether or not that means it was good or bad, I cant say for sure.

PCA Exclusives

Two thumbs down. Thats what I have to say about the PCA Exclusives. The reason is not because the cigars suck, but the way in which they are announced and promoted is just trash. There are plenty that are announced wel
l in advance so that retailers, distributors and media but, the majority are not. Some weren’t even announced at all. Having said that, I don’t know how much will actually change because this is also not a new problem and I do not see any effort to make it better. With the exception of Pete Johnson and a few others who are notorious for annual PCA Exclusives and are already anticipated, the rest need to find a way to build up hype over these releases or not release them at all. I spoke with many people who hadn’t heard about more than half of the PCA Exclusives that I ran into on the floor.

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