Davos′s week in the spotlight | News | DW | 19.01.2015
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Davos's week in the spotlight

There are lots of business leaders, heads of government and ministers, Nobel Prize winners and many more. What does it mean for Davos, Switzerland, when the World Economic Forum comes to town?

One thing that's certain in Davos this year is snow. It's equally certain that there won't be a single free hotel room when the World Economic Forum begins - not even in nearby, and not-so-nearby, towns. Participants who book early to get a room in a musty 1960s apartment block can consider themselves lucky. Overcrowded one-room flats are the rule.

Besides the town's 78 rather modest-sized hotels, there are 9,300 beds in apartments and 2,648 beds in camps and hostels - at top prices, of course. A tiny room in a former hospital can easily cost 300 euros ($348) a night, with a 7-day minimum rental.

Here to stay

The tourist office advertises Davos as "a place of superlatives." Located 1,560 meters above sea level, surrounded by majestic mountain peaks, the place is "the highest town in the Alps" and a "holiday destination with international ambience (and) a wide range of accommodation."

But as a venue for the World Economic Forum, the town is too small - and that could be its charm. Once you arrive here, it's not so easy to get away. The drive to Zurich Airport takes at least two hours, in part on slippery mountain roads. Carrying snow chains is mandatory. The alternative of using the Rhaetian Railway in the mountains is not terribly practical.

The disappearing museum

So people are stuck there and every available square meter of Davos is rented out. The small, centrally located Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Museum showcases the artist's graphic works. But it is closed from January 16 to 26 because its galleries find other uses.

"We were able to rent out our premises two or three times every day during the WEF," said Dolores Mark, PR director of the museum. But to whom, she wouldn't say.

"What I can say is that during the week of the WEF, a total of six different companies will be guests of the Kirchner Museum," she said. "Some of them have hired facilities for meetings, such as the exhibition halls. Others hold evening cocktail parties or large dinners with invited guests."

Davos in winter Photo by Andy Mettler

Davos offers a beautiful setting for serious talks

The museum does not disclose its earnings, but "Since we are a private museum, the rental of our premises is of great importance. This way, we can generate a vital source of revenue for the museum."

Police from Liechtenstein

Logistics is one of the great challenges facing the World Economic Forum. Besides the official participants, numerous media representatives, security personnel and additional staff hired by hotels and catering establishments make their way to Davos. All must be accommodated while simultaneously ensuring the safety of the high-profile participants.

The police in Graubünden canton are responsible for security. Spokesman Thomas Hobi is coy about how many security personnel are deployed.

"The team is made up of police units from the entire Swiss national territory. All police departments, as well as those from the Principality of Liechtenstein, send some of their forces to Davos. In addition, the canton police are supported by about 3,000 members of the armed forces. They take on tasks such as setting up equipment and monitoring the entire site, which is divided into four security zones. The only people allowed in are those with accreditation."

Security checks for all

But even these accredited participants are required to undergo security checks, again and again. Before entering the convention center they face airport-like screening in which all bags are X-rayed and everyone must pass through a security gate. Billionaire hedge fund managers wait patiently in the queue alongside government ministers. The residents of Davos are usually not allowed in and are forced to make considerable detours because parts of their town are closed off.

Terrorism fears

The terrorist attacks in Paris haven't changed the security precautions in Davos, Hobi said. The security level is always high during the World Economic Forum, he said, adding that authorities are also provided with information from the intelligence services.

"For years, there have been specific contingency plans to respond quickly to problems from obstructed traffic to assassinations. These plans will not be torn up," Hobi said.

The small size of the venue is also an advantage, because access to the town can be closed off quickly.

It's now routine

But the residents of Davos are relaxed about the many thousands of participants in the World Economic Forum - and are happy to have their business. For weeks, rebuilding and renovation efforts were underway.

At the small Panorama Hotel, a huge tent with a steel frame now stands atop the garage. It can accommodate 300 guests and can be set up as a restaurant, bar or nightclub as required. At least the "stunning mountain panorama" is free.

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