DAVOS: Davos is the ultimate networking event, but also in many ways the ultimate logistics challenge. To get to the top of the Magic Mountain along with the 3,000 “masters of the universe” of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting, and stay there productively for the week-long jamboree, requires careful planning.
If you don’t make the right choice in some crucial decisions, you could miss out on the best moments. Here is some advice in four key areas to ensure you maximize the “Davos experience” in 2019.
1. Davos or Klosters as base camp? The two towns are only 20 km apart, but very different. Davos is bigger and more ostentatious; Klosters has the feel of “old money,” and its hotels are mostly all traditional Swiss Alpine style, compared to the modern apartments of Davos. If you stay in Davos, you will be right in the middle of things, with the Congress Center and other power hubs in walking distance. In Klosters you face a 20-minute shuttle ride each day to and from Davos; on the other hand, you are likely to have much more agreeable downtime, and have the opportunity to meet some interesting people, in the shuttle taxis and Klosters hotels.
2. Hotel or chalet? No contest — hotel every time. You will pay through the nose for the top ones, and even the more modest establishments are expensive, even by Dubai standards. But Swiss hotels are good, with restaurants and facilities that you would really miss in a chalet. The other advantage of a hotel is the fact that it is open 24 hours, and if you by chance lose your key, you are not locked out. This happened to me once in Davos, and I can assure you it is no fun to wander the snowy streets in minus-5-degree temperatures begging for a place in which to lie up until the chalet owner can come with a spare key. The hotel will cost you, but it is worth it.
3. Congress or Belvedere? The Congress Center in Davos is where all the big set pieces of the annual meeting take place — the big plenary sessions, the interesting Chatham House-style briefings, and some WEF social events all take place here. You have to be registered with WEF to gain access. But the Belvedere, a Steigenberger hotel, is where many of the most interesting people stay. It is always sold out during WEF, and only those with real pulling power, and plenty of money, can get to stay there. It is the hangout for many of the bankers and financiers who come to Davos to clinch lucrative deals. Best advice: Be registered with WEF for Congress access, but spend your evenings hanging around the Belvedere.
4. Boots or spikes? This is the last item on my “Davos essentials list,” but perhaps the most important. Some attendees wear ordinary day shoes, or even night-time loafers, but this is a fatal error. You can easily spot them, because they are mostly lying on their backs on a treacherous patch of ice, flailing around trying to get up. You will not get to shake too many important hands if you are laid up in hospital with a broken hip. The WEF hands out detachable ice-spikes for the elite who insist on hand-made brogues, but, while these might keep you upright some of the time, detaching and re-attaching is a convoluted process. Best to do away with the shoes/spikes mix altogether, and go for proper, industrial-quality snow boots. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to wearing them, especially when everybody else is. And, after a while, they look quite good even with a business suit.
Frank Kane is an award-winning business journalist based in Dubai. Twitter: @frankkanedubai