• The World Economic Forum (WEF) postponed its annual meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland from January 2021 to “early next summer.”
  • Countless business leaders, 53 heads of state, and a handful of celebrities attended last year’s meeting, and the program featured big names including President Trump, Greta Thunberg, and Marc Benioff.
  • The most impactful discussions at Davos usually happen after hours.
  • It’s impossible to access the resort town during the event without an invitation from the WEF.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The rich and powerful have postponed their annual descent on a small resort town in Switzerland.

They weren’t going there to ski, but to attend the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), typically held in January of each year. The exclusive four-day event – best known as Davos, after the name of its host city – is an opportunity for the world’s most influential people to meld minds over the world’s economic and political challenges, and, more importantly, to network.

But the 2021 meeting has been postponed to “early next summer” because of the coronavirus pandemic, WEF announced Tuesday.

What is Davos?

Davos is the informal name of the annual four-day conference held by The World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. The non-profit organization’s aim is to “engage the foremost political, business, cultural and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas,” according to its website.

Each year, business leaders and heads of state give lectures and speak on panels about topics ranging from gender equality and venture capital to mental health and climate change. The real magic happens behind closed doors, however: The rich and powerful use the event as a chance to network and hash out their differences out of the public eye.

North and South Korean officials held their first ever ministerial-level meetings at Davos in 1989, while Greece and Macedonia settled their nearly three-decade-long conflict over Macedonia’s name at the event in 2018, according to the BBC.

Who was at Davos in 2020?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Donald Trump were among the 53 heads of state who attended the 2020 event.

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US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and Greta Thunberg also attended, according to Reuters. Priyanka Chopra Jonas spoke at a fireside chat about global poverty, CNBC reported.

Angela Merkel davos

Foto: German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 23, 2019. Source: EUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Notably, the only Iranian on the guest list, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, canceled his trip amid tensions with the United States over the killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, Reuters reported.

About 3,000 business and political leaders were set to attend Davos in 2020, Reuters reported ahead of the January event. Past attendees have included Bill Gates, Prince William, Marc Benioff, and George Soros, according to the BBC. Global pop icon Shakira, actors Forest Whitaker and Matt Damon, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, and former Alibaba chairman Jack Ma have also attended in the past, The New York Times reported.

How do people get access to Davos?

Attendance is by invitation only, according to CBS News. As a result, the conference has long faced criticism over a lack of diversity among attendees. Only 22% percent of Davos’ 2019 attendees were women, the BBC reported. African and Asian markets are also underrepresented, former U.S. Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade and Foreign Policy magazine editor David Rothkopf told CBS.

Without an invite, you weren’t even able to access the resort. It turns into a “veritable fortress” during the event, according to The New York Times’ Michael J. de la Merced and Russell Goldman.

Davos, Switzerland

Foto: A general view shows the mountain resort of Davos, Switzerland, January 25, 2019 Source: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

How much does it cost to attend Davos?

The conference itself is free for most attendees, the BBC reported. However, anyone there to represent a company is charged 27,000 Swiss francs ($28,000) to attend.

Even those who don’t pay for the conference are still on the hook for the WEF’s membership fees, which start at 60,000 Swiss francs ($62,000) per year and can range up to 600,000 Swiss francs ($620,000) depending on the type of membership, according to the BBC.

Accommodations in Davos don’t come cheap either. Hotels raise their prices to five times their normal rate during the conference, according to The New York Times. Rooms at two of the most popular hotels among attendees, the Belvedere and the InterContinental, rented for $231 and $392 on nights in January 2020, their websites show. Both hotels are sold out during the event. They also sell badges to allow access to common areas frequented by attendees, The Times reported.

Some attendees elect to rent chalets for themselves and their staff, which can cost up to $140,000 for the week, The Times reported.

Most attendees do save a bit of money by eating and drinking on someone else’s dime, The Times reported.

yo-yo ma davos

Foto: U.S. cellist Yo-Yo Ma prepares his cello before playing a piece of Johann Sebastian Bach after receiving this year’s Crystal Award at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 25, 2008. Source: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

What was on the agenda for 2021?

Davos’ 2021 theme is “Great Reset,” according to the event’s website. World leaders were set to attend a variety of speeches, panels, and discussions designed to help chart the global recovery plan for after the coronavirus pandemic.

Even though the main conference has been rescheduled, WEF still plans to host a series of digital discussions on their original dates in January.

However, the most important thing that happens at Davos is networking.

What goes on after hours at Davos?

Various companies throw a wide range of events for Davos attendees, The New York Times reported. One year, JPMorgan Chase rented out the Kirchner Museum Davos to throw a cocktail party co-hosted by Dimon and former British prime minister Tony Blair. Google throws a party each year at the InterContinental Hotel that The Times called “the hottest ticket in town.”

In 2013, former Facebook president Sean Parker threw an infamous party where “specially made stuffed animals illuminated dancers with lasers shot from their eyes” as John Legend performed, according to CBS News. Also in 2013, Benioff flew in fresh flowers and a live band from his adopted home of Hawaii, according to The Times.