Notes from Davos: The Swiss connection

Author - Ajay Khanna

Published By:The Economic Times
Posted on:May 23, 2022

Notes from Davos: The Swiss connection

Swiss hospitality is legendary. In fact, one has a lot to learn from Swiss about punctuality, service with a smile and attention to detail. It is almost always near perfect. So I really look forward to my annual rendezvous.

However, the summer storm that hit Delhi on Friday evening nearly upended my travel plans. Most international ights got diverted. Somehow our SWISS inbound ight managed to get through and touched down safely in Delhi.

I am intrigued though that despite the receding threat of the Covid-19 pandemic, SWISS has not resumed its daily ight to Zurich. Everyone prefers a direct ight and hence the thrice a week routine made it extremely diicult to book a seat (in my case two, as my wife Renu is my constant companion at Davos).

Good morning Zurich

I have always looked forward to the drive up to Davos from Zurich. Given the inclement conditions of a Swiss winter, I always prayed for an experienced driver to navigate the treacherous winter conditions.

Hey, but this was a Davos summer. No such fears. Instead, we were treated to a beautiful and uneventful drive loaded with supine views of nature. As Renu put it: “From a white to a green Davos.”

While the drive is fun, a ride on a Swiss train is an even bigger draw. Though you have to switch two trains, the experience, especially given the legendary Swiss punctuality, is awesome.

A Davos Summer

Davos and Klosters are twin ski resorts. Both towns thrive in winter when visitors arrive in droves. Summer therefore is the lean season.

In fact I recall a visit to Davos in the summer of 2005. It was a ghost town. Restaurants, hotels, local transport, including taxis, were o the grid.

This time it is dierent. The town is bustling with activity. The equivalent of the Mall Road (a standard feature at Indian hill stations) in Davos is the Promenade.

About three kilometres long, the Promenade connects the two train stations in Davos: Davos Dorf and Davos Platz. And this stretch is where all the action is.

The population of Davos, estimated at about 10,000 (numbers India can conjure in a few blocks), survive on the business generated by ski tourism— which extends from end-November till April.

Claudia, a German living in Davos for over 11 years, says the town all but shuts down in o-season. They do get an odd tourist engaged in hiking or biking. The residents therefore are delighted at this summer treat to their business.

The Business Opportunity

Like in winter, the best means of moving around is the shuttle service deployed by the orld Economic Forum (WEF). The EF Congress is the centre, and the blue, yellow, and red lines converge here. The drivers are all local.

The cafes and eateries that dot the Promenade have been temporarily closed. Their space is being used to host company, country, and state pavilions.

These lounges provide the perfect spot to mingle and network—the dharma of Davos.

We walked into a very welcoming Saudi tourism lounge on the promenade and took in the breath-taking décor. The ambience and the warm welcome made Saudi coee taste that much better. (See pictures)

Celeb spotting

I bumped into the young Maharashtra minister Aditya Thackeray who had turned up early to formally throw open the Maharashtra lounge.

Covid Fears

Yes, the threat of the covid-19 pandemic may have receded, but the WEF managers are not taking chances. They continue to stick to the drill.

Accordingly, one had to upload vaccination certicates, take an RTPCR before boarding the ight; another test within 24 hours of picking up your credentials. Better safe than sorry.

The Badge of Honour

Once in Davos, the WEF badge is your passport. It is your means of access to the Congress centre, events, and hotels. Since everyone sports one, you also nd an awful lot of time navel gazing (to catch the name) as you go about your business of networking.

Once the registration is done—a process so incredible smooth and eicient— you are handed your delegate bag. It includes a foldable umbrella (There is something about WEF and umbrellas; recall a special session in Myanmar, several years ago, where we handed this beautiful umbrella with motifs drawn from the country). Keeping with their commitment to green, the umbrellas are made from waste and one hundred percent recycled PET plastic bottles!

Sunday was the kick o eight Davis circle - the private event I mentioned with Prof .Klaus Schwab hosting the event . He surprised me by asking to make a comment on my experience with Davos over the years . Followed by the big opening reception where you connect with delegates . I always look forward to this opening networking reception.

I met young Swiss entrepreneur who is making robots to cut the famous Swiss cheese- Raclette (see picture) this is a unique feature of the forum as mentioned earlier notes where apart from the famous names you meet young entrepreneurs, global shapers , over 100 unicorns this year & so on!

The last entry on my diary was the rst Indiaspora dinner up in a beautiful chalet in hotel Schatzalp . This is for the rst time Indiaspora are doing an event to bring together Indians from all over the world at this beautiful ski resort! Met many prominent Indians at this well curated dinner!

So much for the fun and games. From Monday it is showtime folks.