Hunting exhibitions and shows are an inalienable part of the industry. The BookYourHunt.com team has attended many of them – in the USA, in Western and Eastern Europe, in South Africa. But recently we’ve been up to something completely different: the ADIHEX, Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition.
The United Arab Emirates is not just some kind of a third world country. Is a very rapidly developing economy, long past the “sell oil, buy stuff” stage. The leaders of the nation are well aware that the days of fossil fuel are numbered, and have begun to look for alternative ways of development a few decades ago. Thousands of people of all professions, white and blue collar, come here to work, mostly from Pakistan and India, but also from Europe and the USA. The problem is that due to the very hot climate you mostly have to spend your time under the air conditioner. Of course, if you are locked indoors, you want to get out, and so interest in the outdoors is high.
ADIHEX – the main outdoor show in the Middle East, the show that is very different to all the other shows that we used to attend. It managed to surprise us from the start with its size. Over 680 exhibitors presented themselves, their products and services, in 9 halls totaling 50 thousand square meters (that’s, like, half a million square feet), with total attendance estimated at just over 100,000. That’s not the Great American Outdoor Show league yet, but it does beat Europe’s biggest hunting expo, the Jagd & Hund in Dortmund, Germany, by more than 1 ½.
Hunting is not the sole theme of the ADIHEX, which, as already mentioned, covers the whole range of the outdoor activities. A large part is devoted to equestrian things – of course, the Arabs have historically loved all things related to horses and horse riding, including horseback hunting. Falconry, another outdoor pursuit with a very high significance to the local culture, has been prominently represented. Cultural heritage is a focal point of the ADIHEX, and you could see that in the special department dedicated to outdoor art of all kinds, from paintings to carpets. And of course, two great halls housed the exhibitors in the fishing sector, and hunting and hunting guns.
But it’s not the Arabian Nights flavor that makes the Abu Dhabi show different from anything we’ve seen yet – it is the educational aspect. The main goal here is not to sell, but to educate the local public, both citizens and permanent residents. Both the outdoor market and the public are rather inexperienced and need to be informed and mentored. As a matter of fact, that is why the BYH team decided to participate in the Expo. BookYourHunt.com is a great lens where a considerable volume of information is accumulated in one and the same place, and accessible 24/7 online. And we worked really hard to educate the visitors that were attracted to our stand.
To give you an idea about how fresh the audience in UAE is, the most attractive items on our stand were full-size trophy mounts, especially the lion. We could hardly get the viewers off it, and had to explain the concept of a taxidermy mount, and of a hunting trophy in general, to hundreds of people. A typical dialogue at the stand run:
– Is it a real lion?
– Yes, it is.
– Really real?
– Yes, it is an actual real lion, that was hunted in Mozambique.
– Can I touch it?
Touching is a very important thing in Middle Eastern culture. People there like to experience things on a personal level, and establish close contact. Everyone who wants to participate in any similar show needs to bear this in mind – when visitors see a lion or deer mount they like, they can’t resist the temptation to pet or touch it. And you can take it as a sign they mean business: “Can I buy it?” and “How much?” were the second most popular questions.
The lack of experience is understandable – in the UAE there aren’t many opportunities to hunt – actually, hunting is simply banned in most parts of the country. But the people are well aware of their hunting heritage, especially when it comes to falconry and horse riding. They are willing to learn, highly interested, and can afford to travel.
Obviously, the public consisted not only of new people – there are quite a number of experienced outdoors people who have been places and harvested a fair number of trophies. That included a few of our old clients and friends, who didn’t miss a chance to drop at our stand to shake hands, remember the old days, and set plans for the future: just like at any hunting show anywhere.
Was it hard work? You bet. The expo was so scheduled as to give the people an opportunity to visit it after their working day ended, so it started at 11 in the morning and ran until 10 in the afternoon – we were working both Arabian days and Arabian nights, you might say.
Was it worth it? Absolutely! BookYourHunt.com is a modern, high-tech enterprise, which – as you well know – is set on bringing together hunters and providers of hunting trips in the virtual reality of the internet. But we value good old-fashioned personal communication and head to head contact, and find them invaluable and irreplaceable in many areas, but especially here, in the Middle East.
The Persian Gulf countries are a promising market for hunting tourism. No, we didn’t meet thousands of new clients who were ready to book a hunt or a fishing trip straight away. This is a very young and immature market that requires a lot of investment into promotion and education. We’ve done our best to this effect at the show, and got a lot of positive response from the public, and we’ve got to learn a lot, too. In short, none of us regrets coming!