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All you need to know to be a Davos delegate

By Paul Armstrong, CNN
Though only CEOs may opt for the helicopter transfer to Davos, attending the WEF would make an accountant baulk.
Though only CEOs may opt for the helicopter transfer to Davos, attending the WEF would make an accountant baulk.
  • World Economic Forum is strictly by invitation only, with 2,500 participants
  • Average cost to a business to send each delegate is a whopping $18,000
  • Getting to Davos and then finding accomodation also hits the pocket hard
  • Wealthier delegates can take a helicopter from Zurich to Davos for under $10,000

Davos, Switzerland (CNN) -- The great Davos talking shop is now up and running, with delegates of all levels of importance, shapes and nationalities zeroing in on this quaint, alpine town to put the world to rights.

For many ordinary people the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) is yet another "important" summit in the calendar where the elite of business and politics will schmooze for a few days in a rarefied environment they have little or no experience of.

Whether or not you believe events such as Davos justify their lofty ambitions, they are certainly a unique experience. So how do you become a Davos delegate?

Official invite

The World Economic Forum is strictly by invitation only, with 2,500 participants representing over 100 countries. The roll call includes CEOs and representatives from the world's biggest corporations; politicians and heads of state from the G20 and other key countries; technology innovators; social entrepreneurs; philanthropists and media companies.

However these special invitations -- or white badges -- are not free for everyone. Unless you're an anchor for one of the many broadcasters covering the event; an academic; a faith leader; a Young Global Leader (young people with great potential selected by the WEF from all fields of business); a social entrepreneur; or from an NGO, the average cost to a business to send each delegate is a whopping $18,000.

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Huge travel budget

Getting to this small ski resort, nestled in a picturesque valley high up in the Swiss Alps 150 km south-west of Zurich, is not for the budget traveler. For a delegate arriving from New York this week flying business class, the price comes in at between $3,700 and $6,000. A visitor from Tokyo can expect to pay between $7,200 and $8,000, while a delegate flying in from Johannesburg, South Africa will pay around $4,450.

And once in Zurich there's the small matter of the transfer to Davos. A regular shuttle bus and train service is available, but a two-hour trip by public transport may not suit the business client. The alternative would be a limousine which would cost 650 Swiss Francs ($689) for a one-way trip. However corporate CEOs may choose to come by helicopter, which costs around $9,000 for a return flight.

Place to stay

Finding accommodation in Davos during the week of the World Economic Forum is not easy, with a limited number of large hotels. Predictably tariffs reflect the resulting demand/supply imbalance, with a room in a modest three-star hotel coming in at around 500 Swiss Francs ($530) per night.

Those with a considerably bigger budget often choose to rent out whole apartments or chalets. A chalet sleeping up to ten people for the week can command as much as 60,000 Swiss Francs ($63,600) - though catering might just be included.

The right outfit

It's cold in Davos, very cold. At 5,052 ft (1,540m) above see level, temperatures average -6 degrees Celsius (21.1 degrees Fahrenheit) in January.

Thermal underwear, winter jackets and snow boots are a must, particularly when the temperature plummets in the evenings as you make your way to the various cocktail parties, meals and social events hosted by partner companies. It is not uncommon to see $2,000 bespoke suits finished off with bulky snow boots around the Congress Center.

Knowing where to go

With all the above boxes ticked, it is essential to have a plan once you have run the gauntlet of airport-style security -- there are 4,000 Swiss troops in Davos this week -- and made it inside the newly-extended Congress Center with the correct color of identity pass. Some delegates do nothing but network with other delegates, oblivious to the feverish discussions going all around them about the post-crisis new reality.

But if you are interested in what is actually taking place then you have to get with the (WEF) program. This year's theme, "Shared Norms for the New Reality," is about reprogramming the world so that the way we interact and do business is more inclusive -- lofty ambitions indeed.

So delegates can spend four days roaming this cavernous indoor amphitheater attending conferences and workshops about everything from how the environment agenda will change in light of current trends and norms, to how music can transform communities and unite people.

This is all thirsty work. But rest assured the WEF's almost obsessive attention to detail guarantees that no-one will starve, as Wednesday's opulent Japanese-themed lunch, complete with wine and Japanese beer, in the main meeting area demonstrated.

$40,000-per head well spent.

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