ABU DHABI // Vendors at the Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (Adihex) offered mixed reports on the success of this year's show, despite a considerable rise in attendance. The annual exhibition was 25 per cent bigger in area compared to last year, and the appearance of the British Household Cavalry's Musical Ride helped push attendance up 14 per cent, organisers said. That put the show at the National Exhibition Centre on course to exceed 100,000 visitors for the first time.
But some exhibitors said sales were down from last year, quashing the hopes of several European and American vendors that the Gulf would prove to be more recession-proof than their flagging home economies. The German arms manufacturer Frankonia said sales and foot traffic were both down at its booth in the gun section. The company had produced a gold-plated shotgun especially for the show price tag Dh500,000 (US$136,147). A company spokesman, Reinhard Hadelt, said the gun attracted "fingerprints and photographs" but not firm bids.
"This day we might have some business yet, so maybe we will be up," he said. "We will be back next year and we hope it will be better, inshallah." One vendor that reported doing better than last year was the Saudi-based Al Sunaidi Group, which sells hunting and travel equipment. They claimed Dh8 million in sales in the first three of the exhibition's four days and predicted another surge in sales from contacts made here. It was the company's first appearance at the exhibition, and business at its stand was conducted almost entirely in Arabic.
Swedish rifle manufacturer VO Guns, which is seeking a local business partner to open a showroom in Abu Dhabi, also reported that it was "very satisfied" with the show. "The number of VIPs and royalty, at least in our stand, has increased a lot," Ulf Olsson, a gunsmith, said. The company is trying to sell a diamond-encrusted shotgun with engraved images of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque for Dh3.5 million, which failed to sell last year.
When asked if it had attracted bids this year, Mr Olsson said he was satisfied with the progress of its sale. "We will of course be back next year," he said. "Abu Dhabi has become our second home." Robert Burchler, of Swiss gun manufacturers Burchler Waffen, said the exhibition was "absolutely fantastic" but was also expensive to attend. His company needed to sell two or three hunting rifles to make it worthwhile, he said, and that had not happened by late yesterday afternoon.
"This time it was much worse than last year," he said. "Last time by this year, we had sold a lot more. I don't know the reason one reason might be local gun laws." He said there was usually a surge of sales on the last hours of the last day, and regardless, he thinks the show helps establish the Burchler Waffen brand. He intends to come back next year "if we can". The camel auction that closed the exhibition was a success 18 camels were sold for more than Dh2 million altogether. firstname.lastname@example.org For Peter Hellyer's commentary on the Zayed rifle, click on "weekender" at www.thenational.ae