Millionaire Fair for Ultra-Rich Kicks Off Despite Global Crisis

The Millionaire Fair, a trade show offering luxury goods for the ultra-rich from jewelry to helicopters, opened to the public Friday with few in attendance amid a global financial meltdown.

Fair director Klaas Obma said, however, that he didn't think the crisis would keep rich shoppers from buying high-priced wares.

"I think it's quite the opposite," Obma said. "People want something nice to look at in their garage or living room, something to help them forget their troubles."

The four-day fair markets itself as a place for the rich to shop for "the most beautiful and exclusive products and services."

For $52 admission visitors can visit the stalls of some 100 exhibitors selling everything from jewelry to private helicopters.

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Obma said he expects some 20,000 visitors despite the meltdown, although more journalists than shoppers perused the floor of the exhibition hall on Friday afternoon.

Simon Schaefer, who was working at a booth for Italian shoemaker Joseph Debach, said he suspected that deflated markets and investment woes were keeping well-off customers at home.

"I think people are depressed about what's been happening in the banking sector," said Shaefer, surrounded by pairs of shoes priced at between $806 to $3,360.

Ahead of the opening, Munich Social Forum spokesman Walter Listl told Germany's Deutsche Welle news his group would protest the gathering with a symbolic slave market and other acts.

"Our aim is not to pillory people, but to attack existing social conditions," Listl said. "Riches are the cause of poverty."

But while a small group of protesters gathered outside the Munich convention center for a gala dinner on Thursday, space reserved for demonstrators was empty as the fair officially opened on Friday.

The fair was founded by a Dutch lifestyle magazine in Amsterdam in 2002 and is being held in Germany the first time this year.

The Millionaire Fair was held in Shanghai earlier this month and will travel on to Istanbul, Moscow and Amsterdam.