14 Jan 2024 9:04 AM GMT


Delagates pouring into Davos for World Economic Fourm annual meet


Delagates pouring into Davos for World Economic Fourm annual meet


The Geneva-based WEF is hosting its 54th annual meeting here beginning Monday, where more than 2,800 leaders from across the world will participate in a high-profile talkfest for five days.

Davos: Be it conflicts in Gaza or Ukraine, climate change threats in Antarctica or Amazon, AI generating a monster like deepfake and its threat to elections, or debt crisis in emerging markets to developed world -- problems are aplenty and all have suddenly reached this small ski resort town on the Alps.

Once known for health tourism, always frequented by skiing enthusiasts and also a home to the Sherlock Homes creator who moved here to help his ailing wife live longer, Davos is also home to the annual week-long pow-wow of global elite in sub-zero temperatures and that has made it into a host for a talkfest for all problems plaguing or facing the world.

For now, it teems with huge billboards atop buildings and even on buses, promoting governments and companies, including Indian, while the narrow roads made even narrower by heavy snowfall are full of lounges set up by the private and public sectors from multiple countries.

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting affair seems to be bigger this year as the city also hosted on Sunday for the first time a meeting of 90 national security advisors from across the world, presumably to discuss a peace plan for Ukraine.

The main event would begin Monday and will continue till Friday.

The snowfall also seems to be much more this time as the first day itself saw roads getting closed and serpentine traffic since morning and snow showers are expected to continue throughout the week.

Flush with nearly three times its usual population, the Swiss resort of Davos is teeming with black business suits for the WEF annual gathering, but it still cannot deter the skiing enthusiasts and those coming for medical tourism.

There are warnings that the snow-laden town in the Swiss Alps can see temperatures dipping to as low as minus 30 degree Celsius at higher altitudes this season. But that does not seem to have dampened the spirits of those having come to the annual talkathon of the rich and powerful from across the world -- something that has become synonymous with this place for over five decades now.

The event has also brought thousands of army, police and other security personnel from across Switzerland and some neighbouring countries as well to secure the summit being attended by nearly 60 heads of states and governments.

But it has a much older and fascinating history of its own, being a place of eminence for medical tourism as also winter sports.

Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the famous detective character Sherlock Holmes, moved to this town along with his ailing wife that reportedly helped her live longer.

Once famous for being a summer health resort, Davos has gradually emerged as a major winter sport hub on the Alps, but its biggest claim to fame for the past five decades has been the World Economic Forum's annual meeting every January, beginning 1971.

The Geneva-based WEF is hosting its 54th annual meeting here beginning Monday, where more than 2,800 leaders from across the world will participate in a high-profile talkfest for five days.

To cover this global elite jamboree, there are more than 500 journalists and thousands of support staff as well.

While such a high-profile event leads to all hotels and rental apartments being occupied, the die-hard winter sport fans still throng this place as the WEF week also means relatively smaller crowds in ski areas and on mountain cableways.

The only drawback for tourists is that they cannot stay within the town, which has less than 10 medium-sized hotels and about 40 small ones, including in nearby areas like Klosters and Dorf.

Besides, the so-called WAGs (wives and girlfriends), as referred to by locals and others privately but as partners on record, of those attending the WEF meet are also around in large numbers on ski circuits and at various tourist destinations of the town that comprises two big parallel roads and numerous connecting alleys.

Davos' history as a modern and popular holiday destination dates back to 150 years, when the first winter guests arrived here in 1865. Till then, it was just a summer mountain health resort with a strong reputation for treatment of tuberculosis patients.

One day in February 1865, Doctor Friedrich Unger and Hugo Richter from Germany arrived here and began a course of treatment on a bed made from a hay sled covered with boards.

The treatment proved successful and both men were able to return to work. Soon after, Unger returned to Davos and worked as a doctor here for over 20 years.

Richter married a Davos girl and took over the management of a guest house. Later, he also moved his publishing business to this small town and began printing two local newspapers.

Another feather in its cap is Davos being home to painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, who spent his last 20 years in this town, which is full of many of his finest paintings.

Besides a museum devoted to Kirchner's work, his paintings can be seen everywhere in Davos.

Towards the end of his life, Kirchner suffered a major nervous breakdown and spent his last days in a sanatorium in Davos. This is the same sanatorium that inspired Noble laureate Thomas Mann's classic novel 'The Magic Mountain'.

Davos' annual affair with WEF began in 1971 when the Forum was known as European Management Forum. That year, WEF founder Klaus Schwab invited over 400 European business leaders for a meeting at the Davos Congress Centre under the patronage of the European Commission.