Security and a place to sleep in Davos | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 19.01.2016
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Security and a place to sleep in Davos

Manuela Kasper-Claridge heads DW's business department. She's a regular participant at the World Economic Forum. Here she provides a few impressions of arriving at the event in Davos, Switzerland.

With just five minutes to catch their connecting train from Landquart to Davos and the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, French, Japanese, English, Russians, and Italians scurry along the platform.

Weighed down by laptops, multiple mobile phones and luggage, they clamber onto the Rhaetian Railway train. "A fascinatingly different way to travel" is the company's slogan. But that doesn't necessarily equal comfort. As the train winds up the mountain, we passengers rattle around inside.

In the carriage, everyone speaks English. Swiss people in the know avoid the stuffed trains during the annual event. Around 14,000 people - mainly politicians, business leaders, journalists and police - attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, far outstripping the number of inhabitants.

The town lies more than 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) up in the mountains, surrounded by heavenly alpine views. Japanese tourists grab their phones to capture a few shots. Just past the village of Klosters, where Charles, Prince of Wales, spends his winter holiday, the first security measures pop up - forest dugouts and army machinery. The Swiss parliament approved the deployment of up to 5,000 army personnel to assist and secure the area between Jan. 15-25.

"The global situation has an impact on our evaluations and the arrangements," Walter Schlegel, commanding officer of the Cantonal police in Graubünden, told DW. Schlegel naturally doesn't want to go into details. But there are no concrete security threats, he says.

Fortress Davos

There are just two entrances into Davos for those travelling by car on the mountain roads and they are tightly controlled. Alongside the military, thousands of police officers have been deployed as well as numerous security firms. For "strategic reasons," no exact figures are provided. The Swiss state coffers are carrying the costs of around 8 million Swiss francs ($7.9 million, 7.3 million euros), around 2 million of which come from the WEF.

"Davos is like a fortress during the World Economic Forum," said Nuot Lietha from the local tourism office. During the WEF, the slopes are empty and ideal for skiing. The main problem is finding a place to sleep.

"Looking for a place to stay in Davos from Tuesday to Sunday, pay well, rarely there," writes one woman on Twitter. But whoever thinks they might be able to find a room in the town or surrounding region is mistaken. On the train, accommodation tips are swapped and some declare themselves ready to share their hard-won lodgings. Still, success rates are low. WEF veterans know this story only too well.

Swiss special police officer on a roof

Members of the Swiss special police force will once again be in action in Davos

Bed emergency

I recall a sagging sofa in a kitchen-living room combo and many broken showers. This year I'm looking forward to my two-star hotel at five-star prices. Having painstakingly cultivated a friendly relationship to the hotelier, I've managed to secure my hotel room.

In Davos, guests are not only met with views of snow-covered mountains and streets but also the ostentatious Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvedere. It's one of the most important locations during the WEF. Over four days, the hotel will play host to more than 300 events and a motley crew of world leaders, Nobel Prize winners, billionaires and artists. Last year, 16,805 canapés, around 1600 bottles of champagne and thousands of bottles of red and white wine were consumed daily in the Steigenberger alone.

Still, hotel manager Thomas Kleber is relaxed. The kitchen crew has been tripled. Rooms can be modified within a matter of minutes.

One year during the WEF, I met Bill Clinton drinking tea in the quaint Café Schneider. He was seeking a moment's peace. But he won't be able to find it there anymore. This year, the café will be completely transformed for the Indian government business initiative "Make in India." Chicken tikka masala will replace cheese fondue.

A stage for the stars

Davos is a major stage. Leonardo di Caprio is expected at this year's WEF, alongside Kevin Spacey and Yao Chen, the famous Chinese actress also known as the "Queen of Weibo." Sina Weibo is a Chinese microblogging site similar to Twitter, where Yao has 78 million followers.

These stars likely won't travel with Rhaetian Railway to Davos. A helicopter or a black limousine from Zurich airport is the favored form of celebrity transport for the three-hour journey, including security controls.

But nobody attends the WEF for fun. It's a place for serious and sometimes groundbreaking discussions on the state of the world. Di Caprio will speak about climate change, while Kevin Spacey will address politics and may even find inspiration for the next season of "House of Cards." Almost 50 world leaders - from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Iraqi PM Haider Al-Abadi and the new Argentine President Mauricio Macri - will come together for the unique event.

Around 18 percent of WEF participants are female. German Chancellor Angela Merkel won't be attending this year but Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, and the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg will be there to name but a few. And, yes, I'll be there too, tweeting under @ManuelaKC.

Paul-Christian Britz contributed reporting.

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