As participants prepare to make the journey to the Swiss Alps, find out more about the history of Davos and the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting:

  • The first Annual Meeting was held in 1971, with 444 participants. It lasted for a whole fortnight. This year’s meeting, the 44th, runs from 22 January to 25 January, and over 2,500 people will be taking part.
  • In the late 1920s Albert Einstein was a regular visitor to Davos, leading discussions with French, German and Swiss academics in an annual summer school, the Davoser Hochschulkurse. In 1928 he gave a lecture on relativity, and began by telling his audience: “This enterprise is admirably suited to establish relations between individuals of different nationalities, relations which help to strengthen the idea of a European community.” Sadly the collapse of the Weimar Republic ended the Hochschule project.
  • Davos is the highest city in Europe – 1,560 metres (5,100 feet) above sea level. The dry air and high altitude made it a refuge for tuberculosis sufferers in the 19C, and led to Davos developing as a sanatorium, and centre for medical conferences.
  • In January 2002, the Annual Meeting was held in New York as a gesture of solidarity after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It is the only time the meeting has been held outside Switzerland.
  • CO2 levels in the city of Davos fall on average up to 30% during the Annual Meeting, thanks to controls on vehicle emissions and the use of electric transport.
  • Davos has a rich cultural history. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the final chapters of Treasure Island in Davos in the early 1880s. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote short stories and articles here in the early 1890s, helping to popularise skiing and tobogganing. Thomas Mann’s influential novel The Magic Mountain was set in Davos, just before WW1. After the war, the expressionist painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner lived in Davos from 1918 until his death in 1938.
  • The World Economic Forum hosts a parallel event to its Annual Meeting, the Open Forum. Anyone can take part in it, and it attracts visitors from all over Switzerland and from neighbouring countries – especially school students.
  • The Annual Meeting contributes CHF 45 million to the local Davos economy and CHF 70 million to Switzerland’s economy overall. The Swiss Federal Government, the Canton of Graübunden, and Davos itself all help make the meeting a success.
  • Participants in this year’s Annual Meeting come from almost 100 countries, including nearly 40 heads of state or government.
  • The youngest participant is 21-year-old Umar Anwar Jahangir, a Global Shaper from Islamabad, who heads Bahria Medics, a student run social welfare organization. At the other end of the age range is Shimon Peres, President of Israel, at 90.


Author: Donald Armbrecht is a Digital Media Producer at the World Economic Forum

Image: A Davos participant walks through the snow (Reuters)