It’s that time of year again. The World Economic Forum kicks off next week in Switzerland. As sure as New Year follows Christmas, Davos follows New Year.
I always look forward to the annual bash in Lanyard Land. You are guaranteed a few days of intellectual stimulation and fresh ideas delivered by fascinating people, all in beautiful Alpine environs with opportunities for “après ski” relaxation, if you can fit it in. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
But in a climate very different from that of the Arabian Gulf at this time of year, thorough preparation for the trip is essential. After a good few years of Davos attendance, I regard it as imperative to get ready for the WEF in a systematically ordered manner.
So here are my essential tips for Davos 2016:
1. Ensure the wallet is full, and the credit cards empty. With so many billionaires squeezing into a small Alpine town, Davos is always an inflationary furnace inside a monopolistic hothouse.
But this year the good burghers of the town seem to have outdone themselves. Maybe it’s the strength of the Swiss franc, unpegged from the euro last year, but early indications are that the WEF delegates’ pips will be squeaking aloud by the end.
The hotel I’ve booked, via the Publicis PR firm that manages delegates’ accommodation at Davos, is an unexceptional mid-market ski-hotel. Comfortable enough – I stayed there before – and well situated in Davos Platz, but, with an obligatory five-night charge regardless of how long you actually stay, it comes to an eye-watering Dh10,400 total charge.
By way of comparison, that’s roughly the same as it would cost me to sample five-star luxury for five nights in, say, Dubai’s Mina A’Salam in Madinat Jumeirah. Staggering.
So, rule No 1 – make sure you’ve got the financial resources to get through the WEF.
2. You are only as good as your boots. At more than 1,500 metres up in the Alps in the middle of winter, snow is guaranteed, even in a year that so far has been the mildest Switzerland has had for 150 years.
Obviously, you will want to wrap up warm – overcoat, gloves, scarf, jumpers etc are all obligatory, even if the cloakroom check-in becomes a serious trial. But footwear is by far the most important single item.
Without good snow boots, you will end up skating and slithering around the crowded streets of Davos, and will probably miss all the interesting stuff because you’re either on your backside, or moving so gingerly that the Bono chalet party is over by the time you arrive.
Forget ice-spikes, overshoes or any other fancy accessory. Go for rugged ribbed-sole Timberlands, and keep them on all the time.
3. Your most important faculties are your eyes and your lips – look after them. Davos is all about networking, pressing the flesh, meeting and greeting. And it’s competitive. To function efficiently in this cut-throat arena, you need to recognise the important people quickly, and be able to say something interesting when a conversation window opens.
If – like me – you need reading glasses, you must have them on all the time, to be able to read the lanyard labels of the billionaire, president, rock star, Hollywood actress. And have a spare pair or two as well. At this level, there’s nothing so fatal as mistaken identity.
When you do get chatting, you will be at a distinct disadvantage if your frozen and chapped lips only enable you to grunt incomprehensibly. Make sure you carry a supply of heavy duty lip balm at all times, and apply liberally.