Image: Davos, Switzerland. Source: World Economic Forum
By Arnd Wiegmann
DAVOS (Reuters) – Student protesters who urged world leaders at the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos to “Stop (f)lying to us” must be pleased this year, at least as far as the flying is concerned.
The streets of the little Alpine town that welcomed around 3,000 business chiefs, political thinkers and state leaders for last year’s annual meeting lie deserted. Discussions have moved online, starting Monday, and COVID-19 restrictions are also keeping regular tourists away.
“Look around, it’s empty. Normally, all hotels would be fully booked at this time,” Reto Branschi, head of Davos Klosters tourism, told Reuters in an interview this week.
He said the fact that outdoor activities like skiing were still possible had helped cushion the blow, but the share of foreign tourists was expected to be under 10% versus 35% in normal years.
Svea Meyer, owner of cafe KaffeeKlatsch in Davos, said she had to lay off some staff and was now preparing for the possibility that the World Economic Forum might not come back to Davos at all.
“I cannot see anything good (in the cancellation), we’ve built so many relationships over the years, made friends,” she said with a look of regret.
This year, there are no helicopters patrolling the skies, no protesters trying to outwit security forces sealing off the Alpine resort, no Greta Thunberg stealing the show from former U.S. president Donald Trump.
But not everybody is sad about the lack of buzz.
“Complete peace and quiet,” a local woman wearing a mask said. “I don’t miss it at all.”
Reporting by Arnd Wiegmann. Additional reporting and writing by Silke Koltrowitz. Editing by Christina Fincher