Participation in the forum comes with a hefty price tag attached. A typical Davos Man, as political scientist Samuel P. Huntington described the members of the elite club, has to cover the cost of the ticket to the meeting itself (approximately $19,000), the membership fee (up to $600,000), as well as travel and accommodation expenses. Hotels in Davos are not cheap, with rooms available for several thousand dollars a night.
The World Economic Forum (WEF), a non-profit behind the event, offers several levels of membership. The basic level costs 50,000 Swiss francs (about $52,000), while Strategic Partnership – the highest level WEF has to offer – could be purchased for 600,000 Swiss francs (more than $590,000). On average, according to the International Business Times, attendees pay approximately $31,500 to participate in the meeting.
The WEF comprises 1,000 members from the world's leading corporations with a turnover of more than $5 billion. In addition, the non-profit, which was founded by German engineer and economist Klaus Schwab, invites world leaders, heads of international organizations, scholars, actors, musicians and philanthropists to participate in Davos.
In 2016, Davos speakers included UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al Abadi, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, US Secretary of State John Kerry, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, General Motors CEO Mary Barra to name a few.
Yet fewer people attended this year's forum, which was focused on "mastering the fourth industrial revolution." Approximately 2,500 people are said to have gone to Switzerland this year, while over 2,650 participants were slated to attend the meeting in 2013.
Could it be, as conservative commentator Patrick J. Buchanan put it, because powerbrokers, who come to the Swiss Alps each January, are seen as "advancing an agenda" that serves, first and foremost, their own interests? Or has the forum become too crowded?
In 2012, the Kommersant newspaper observed that Davos is incapable of "exerting a meaningful influence on purely economic processes." A year earlier, Chief Economist Russia & CIS for BNP Paribas Julia Tseplyaeva told the Vedomosti newspaper that the forum was well suited to discuss issues, not resolve them.
This year, a former Davos participant told British journalist Simon Kelner that he was sitting the 2016 forum out. "It's much better I'm at my desk working, rather than sitting in a room talking about working," he noted.