If this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) annual general meeting does indeed take place without US President Donald Trump, it won’t matter too much and the Swiss resort of Davos probably won’t even lose much money, say some Swiss media.
Trump announced on Thursday he was cancelling his planned visit over a government shutdown. It is not clear if the partial shutdown will still be ongoing when the summit takes place in the Swiss mountain resort on January 22-25.
Certainly WEF founder Klaus Schwab should be disappointed as he likes to “bathe in the light of the powerful”, writes Fredy Gsteiger,external link diplomatic correspondent of Swiss public television, SRF.
Ueli Maurer, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, will also miss a rare opportunity to speak face to face with the US president. Otherwise, however, Trump can be seen as “a burden rather than an enrichment for the WEF”, says Gsteiger, “especially as he would hardly have shown up with any creative new initiatives but instead wanted to use Davos for self-promotion in the world spotlight”.
So the WEF doesn’t need a lightning visit from Trump, continues SRF's diplomatic editor, and that also applies to other presidents who are just a “garnish” at the annual gathering of captains of industry.
“Trump’s absence may even be an opportunity for Davos 2019,” he writes. “If the man who would have more or less monopolised attention is absent, important topics and exciting debates about the future of the world economy gain more weight and audience.”
Cashing in anyway
What’s more, Davos will still get loads of American money even if Trump doesn’t come, according to the Tages-Anzeigerexternal link newspaper.
“Although the US government can’t pay its officials because of the budget crisis, it continues to spend large sums on the WEF in Davos,” it writes, saying it consulted a US government database. At CHF232,000 ($236,000) for a three-star hotel in Klosters and CHF228,000 for a conference room in Davos, the US government has already spent at least CHF3.45 million for Trump and his entourage, it says. And some of Trump’s people will come anyway.
“From a Swiss perspective, the US government figures show what a huge business the WEF represents for the local tourism industry,” the Tages-Anzeiger writes.
Whether all these payments are due after a Trump cancellation is not clear. But the US newspaper Quartz, quoted by the Swiss paper, assumes that the US will pay one way or the other, given the “rigid cancellation policy” of Davos hoteliers and other service providers during the WEF.