The Premium Cigar Association (PCA) has announced it has cancelled its 2020 Trade Show and Convention. While the past eleven months have arguably been the most tumultuous in the PCA’s 88 year old history, ultimately the event has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. The PCA Trade Show and Convention had been scheduled to open July 10th in Las Vegas at the Sands Expo Convention Center.

“After much deliberation and careful discussions of every aspect of our annual convention and trade show, the PCA Board and the Associate Member Advisory Board have made the difficult decision to cancel our current event scheduled for July,” said PCA Executive Director Scott Pearce in a statement. “The annual event is an important fixture in the premium tobacco industry, and we were very excited to bring a whole new experience to the industry this year.  However, the public health and safety of our attendees, staff and volunteers outweighed any other considerations in our collective decision-making process.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has had severe business repercussions on all facets of the cigar industry. This combined with the fact that Las Vegas has been closed for nearly two months, and most likely would not be fully operational at the time of the show ultimately led to the cancellation.

As the COVID-19 pandemic was growing, on March 11th the Premium Cigar Association announced it was still planning on going forward with its Trade Show. At the time, I felt it was the right decision and not to push the panic button. Shortly afterward, there was the cancellation of major sporting leagues and events, and eventually many businesses closing (including Las Vegas), voluntarily or by government order, as well as Shelter in Place orders. This has had a huge impact on many retail store operations essentially being crippled in doing business and has resulted in face to face sales by cigar companies coming to a close. It has also resulted in factories being closed in Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

While Las Vegas is getting ready to reopen, the Venetian, which is the hotel and casino which contains the Sands Expo Convention Center, has unveiled a proposed set of guidelines for Venetian Clean. The guidelines include enforced social distancing. Last week the Nevada Gaming Convention issued guidelines capping occupancy for 250 people at conventions.

The PCA’s period of turmoil started last June when news of a consumer element to the Trade Show called CigarCon leaked out a little over a week before the 2019 Trade Show where the announcement was scheduled to be made, creating controversy among many in the cigar industry. The kerfluffle was not helped by what was perceived as low foot traffic at the 2019 IPCPR Trade Show. Some claimed the low foot traffic justified change such as CigarCon. Others felt this showed that IPCPR as an organization had failed.  The backlash ultimately led to a decision to cancel CigarCon 2020.

In January, the PCA faced another challenge when word came that four of the largest cigar companies: Altadis U.S.A., General Cigar Company, Davidoff of Geneva, and Drew Estate were not going to be attending the 2020 Premium Cigar Association (PCA) Trade Show. The four companies cited the decline and costs of the trade show, as well as ways to reverse those trends being met with silence as reasons for pulling out, although most have felt there were philosophical differences between the Big Four and the direction of the PCA.

The PCA Trade Show is also the biggest revenue generator for the association. Much of the revenue is needed to fund legislative and legal battles the cigar industry has undertaken.

“We understand how important this event is to the business needs of both our manufacturers and our retailers, so we are redoubling our efforts to create innovative new ways to aid our members this year,” added Pearce.

*This is a developing story*