backstHAVANA, Feb. 29 (Xinhua) Cigar enthusiasts from around the globe will gather in Havana this week for the 18th Habanos Festival.

The trade fair is expected to attract more U.S. buyers and aficionados than ever before, since Washington has relaxed travel and trade restrictions as part of a year-long bilateral push to normalize ties.

Renowned among the world’s cigar sellers and consumers, the annual festival attracts about 1,500 visitors from some 50 countries.

Highlights of the five-day festival usually include tours to award-winning tobacco plantations, visits to cigar factories, a cigar rolling class, a sommelier contest, and an auction of choice humidors containing limited edition cigars.

This year’s festival will bring together the winning sommeliers of the past to compete for the title of “Master of Masters” in pairing Habanos with fine liquors and cocktails.

It will also mark the 50th anniversary of the Cohiba, a premium brand that had been popular in the United States before an expanded trade embargo banned the importation of Cuban cigars in 1962.Logo-XVIII-Festival

At last year’s festival, the co-president of Cuban cigar producer Habanos S.C., Luis Sanchez-Harguindey, said the company was ready to meet additional demand from the United States.

U.S. travelers can now bring home a limited number of cigars, but it is the eventual lifting of the trade embargo that the company is eyeing.

Sanchez-Harguindey said that as soon as the embargo is repealed, the company can begin to supply the U.S. market with 170 million premium cigars.

Hoyo de Monterrey, another premium brand, will feature significantly this year, with its 2012 Harvest Reserve.

The Cuaba, a brand sold exclusively at La Casa del Habano’s more than 140 locations worldwide, will also be highlighted during the event. The brand will also unveil a special edition to mark its 20th anniversary.