More than 2,500 of the world’s top business leaders, politicians, economists and celebrities from over 100 countries will descend on Davos this week, taking over the Swiss ski resort for the World Economic Forum’s 46th annual meeting.
While the four-day meeting’s official theme is “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution” – WEF’s way of describing the digital era – market volatility, sliding oil prices, global security risks and climate change are all expected to be hotly-debated as invited delegates ranging from Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg to Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio participate in panel discussions, speeches and one-on-one live interviews.
Other notable names on the rota include Credit Suisse boss Tidjane Thiam, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and General Motors chief executive Mary Barra, who will serve as co-chairs of the meeting, which kicks off on Wednesday and wraps up on Saturday. International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde, European Central Bank president Mario Draghi and World Bank president Jim Yong Kim are all also set to participate.
But while the official programme is sure to generate headlines with high-profile speeches from the likes of Prime Minister David Cameron, anyone who is anyone will tell you that the real Davos wheeling-and-dealing happens behind-the-scenes. Chief executives and political leaders alike – more than 40 heads of state and government are reportedly attending the event this year, including newly-elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Argentina’s new president Mauricio Macri, along with US Vice President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – use Davos as a chance for networking and deal-making. Many of those off-the-record conversations carry on late into the night, with after-dinner nightcaps and hotel bar drinks being poured into the wee hours of the morning.
And then there are the celebrities. In recent years, Hollywood’s rich and famous have also made the trek up the mountains to Europe’s highest town, though most of them arrive in private jets, rather than the otherwise requisite coach or train from Zurich airport. This year, actor Leonardo DiCaprio will accept an award from WEF for his “exemplary commitment to improving the state of the world”; so will the musician will.i.am. U2 frontman Bono, singer Peter Gabriel and actor Kevin Spacey are also on the invite list.
Sound like something you would like to attend? Good luck getting in.
WEF is strictly by invitation only, and the average cost for a business to send one delegate is reportedly in the range of $20,000 (£14,030). And that does not include inflated hotel, food, flight and transfer costs, all of which multiply in the resort during the meeting – so much so that CNN estimated that the average cost of attending last year’s annual meeting was $40,000 per person.