World Economic Forum

Expensive mountain retreat for Marcos, WEF? Things to know about Davos

Jodesz Gavilan

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Expensive mountain retreat for Marcos, WEF? Things to know about Davos

MOUNTAINS. A general view shows the Alpine resort of Davos ahead of World Economic Forum (WEF) 2023, in Davos, Switzerland on January 14, 2023.

Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

President Marcos travels to the small Alpine town of Davos in Switzerland, a popular tourist destination. Will the expense be worth it?

MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. continues to live up to his jet-setting reputation as he ventured into his second foreign trip this year, or his eighth in total, since he was sworn into office in June 2022. 

Fresh from his state visit to China, Marcos and his entourage are now in Davos, Switzerland for a five-day trip to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF), where the President eyes doing a “soft launch” of the proposed sovereign wealth fund, or the controversial Maharlika Investment Fund, among others.

But Marcos, the only Southeast Asian leader in attendance, has nothing to show to the WEF, according to Rappler columnist and economist JC Punongbayan

Critics are calling out the administration for prioritizing spending millions of taxpayers’ money to attend the event while Filipinos continue to suffer from rising prices of basic commodities, among others. Davos is not a cheap place to visit as a solo traveler, let alone with an entire entourage. 

But what do we need to know about Davos, the venue of choice for WEF? 

Davos, a small Alpine town

Davos is located in the western part of Switzerland, near its border with Liechtenstein, and is under the jurisdiction of the Canton of Graubünden. It’s considered one of the highest places in the European continent, sitting at least 1,560 meters above sea level.

Davos is a small mountain town with a land area of 284 square kilometers, almost twice the size of Quezon City. As of December 2021, Davos had a population of at least 12,148 – a small percentage of the total Swiss population of 8.7 million. 

As of 2020, at least 8,390 were employed, with more than half working in small businesses spread across Davos.

There is no available data on how many Filipinos are in Davos itself, but there are at least 12,200 Filipinos in Switzerland, according to latest data available.

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Davos, an expensive mountain retreat

The small town has gained prominence for being the venue of international conferences, particularly the World Economic Forum.

In 1971, the Alpine town first hosted the European Management Symposium, the beginning of what would be 50 years of meetings of government, business, and civil society actors to tackle world issues. 

Davos may now be synonymous with the WEF, but it has also become a popular travel destination in Europe. The Alpine town considers itself at the “forefront of development of modern winter sports,” placing Davos on the map when it comes to these types of field events, including skiing and sledding.

This is not hard to imagine, especially with the physical characteristics of Davos. It may be a small area with an even smaller population, but its snow-capped mountains are a perfect setting for relaxation and sports.

At least 84,138 tourists visited Davos during the summer months of June to August in 2022.

Davos is clearly marketed for tourists and travelers. It has a number of hotels, holiday apartments, and mountain huts that can accommodate those who want to visit the snowy mountains. But visiting it, and spending even just one night, could mean an empty pocket, especially if there’s no business or taxpayers’ money to dig into.

For instance, a quick look at travel accommodations website shows that a hotel double room from the center for one night during WEF now costs almost P300,000. 

The search also yields results of hotels kilometers outside Davos already, given that most are already fully booked by now. These options range from P11,000 to P150,000 a night, depending on location and quality of accommodations. 

On “normal” days outside of the WEF week, a simple hotel room can go for as low as P7,800 a night. Five-star hotels, meanwhile, can be booked for P25,000 to P50,000 a night. 

TAX THE RICH. A climate activist displays a placard during a protest ahead of the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2023 in the Alpine resort of Davos, Switzerland on January 15, 2023. Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters
Davos, a science city

Before it was associated with WEF and winter sports, Davos was also identified as a “summer mountain health resort,” according to its website.

Guests from all over Europe have visited the town to cure themselves of sickness because the climate and environment of Davos is conducive to such.

Alexander Spengler, a German physician, even established a spa in Davos where tuberculosis patients can recuperate. Novelist Thomas Mann even set his 1924 work, The Magic Mountain in Davos, partly influenced by his wife’s stay in the town.

Since then, the small alpine town has branded itself as a science city

Davos is now home to numerous research institutions that seek to uncover new approaches to specific issues and introduce innovations as needed. These institutions include the Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma Research, and the World Radiation Center, among others.

Will the Marcos administration get anything worthwhile that would benefit the Philippines from his five-day stay in this expensive Alpine town? –

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.