Davos, Switzerland

Swiss sneeze. My traveler’s sneeze in the bullet-fast rail car with the white Swiss cross is met by multiple Gesundheit! blessings. They are fit and formidable, these Swiss, but exceedingly polite.  Kind of like Texans, that way.  Moving through the rail station, slower than most while attempting to navigate the Deutsch signage, I find myself bumping and tripping into passersby left and right. Every “Excuse me ma’am!” I deliver in my friendly Texas accent is paid back with multiple returns: Es tut mir Leids! and Entschuldigens!

Dress and success. Think of this 48th World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland as a kind of global South-by-Southwest but for successful billionaires, so you shouldn’t show up here in a pair of faded jeans and a scruffy T-shirt.  Lots of expensive apres ski clothes here, of course, but most of the players are in their best grey and blue business suits.

Entourage.  Presidents don’t normally attend the World Economic Forum, but President Trump says he’ll be here among other more predictable world leaders, now that he won an agreement to keep his own government running for a few more weeks.  And he is bringing an entourage of administration officials along for the ride, including Texas native sons, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who arrived late Tuesday, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whose arrival is expected Friday with the President.

American invasion. Trump, whose Presidency has been marked by reality-TV-show-style confrontations and that rising decibel of American bluster, will seem an odd fit for this quiet conference. But he isn’t just attending, it’s practically an American invasion of this famously neutral country.  At the moment, his eight cabinet-level figures and at least seven other top-ranking officials are due in — making a showing with the largest U.S. administration contingent in the conference’s 48 year history.

Alpine adventure. In addition to Perry and Tillerson, Trump cabinet members en route to Switzerland should include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin leading the bunch, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.  Also now expected: senior advisor Jared Kushner, Thomas Bossert, a top counter-terrorism and homeland security adviser, USAID Administrator Mark Green, and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

Trump economy hits Davos. Americans are still debating the Trump economic effect, but he has already improved the finances of hotel owners in and near Davos.  Nearly every hotel room in or even near Davos has been booked for the better part of a year.  When the Trump administration suddenly announced three weeks ago it would be sending its broad contingent of Trump-administration participants, rooms as far as three hours away went up in price.  Way up.

Gender parity.  I attended the first-day session where the popular young Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau presented.  He spoke with great energy about Canada’s progress in achieving greater gender parity in government and on corporate boards.   Look for that theme – gender parity – to become a campaign in the U.S. too after the second women’s march on Saturday that took over the streets in Austin and other Texas cities on Saturday.

It takes a village.  Davos has a global reputation, but it isn’t much bigger than, say, Taos or Red River – a normally accessible arts and sports village.  The host hotels stand out and the action is in the hotel lobbies and conference rooms where the deal-makers are working national government or business leaders with big ideas.

Parking cars. At the end of the day, the world’s big idea people, who’ve come together to discuss and propose novel solutions to the world’s biggest problems, found themselves in a traditional problem – a traffic jam.  Rather than using the shuttle buses running up and down the promenade, these influencers want their private cars. I forwent the shuttle and walked — passing up numerous luxury sedans with more than one passenger sitting anxiously in traffic tapping out a message or chatting on a phone.  I doubt I was the only one to see the irony in the World Economic Forum shuttle van sitting in a log jam of traffic.

James Bond I’m not.  But I can send an email report to you from a high-tech Swiss train racing through the Alps.  In fact, I just did.  I’m staying in St. Moritz, just over the mountains from Davos, which requires a bit of a train ride through the most beautiful scenery one can imagine.  It’s worth a visit and there’s even enough room up in these mountains for Texans and enough space this week for the biggest ideas.


Crosswind’s President and CEO, Thomas Graham, is in Davos this week during the World Economic Forum.  He will be posting some of his experiences and encounters, with a particular eye for fellow Texans who have come for the lively debates on energy and the environment.