I run a hotel in Davos where Bill Gates and other leaders stay for the World Economic Forum, we hardly sleep and live on Red Bull but we love it

This article is based on a conversation with Hans-Rudolf Ruetti, a 62-year-old hotelier with 30 years of experience from Davos, Switzerland, about preparing the Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvedere for guests of the World Economic Forum. It has been edited for length and clarity.

For more than 50 years, Davos has been celebrating what is now known as the World Economic Forum (WEF), and every year the Grandhotel Belvédère has welcomed the guests of the WEF. Bill Clinton stayed at this hotel at one time. Angela Merkel, Michael Dell, Bill Gates… they’ve all been here.

I became CEO of the Grandhotel Belvédère in November 2021, so I have only seen the 2022 WEF, which was moved from January to May. This year, the WEF expects around 3,000 participants.

last year’s forum did not have the same energy, so we are glad that the real Economic Forum is back after such a long hiatus. In addition to the assembly itself, numerous side events take place around Davos. That is why there are many works both in the city and in the hotel.

Luckily, now it doesn’t snow much, And that makes preparations easier.

In preparation for the Davos Forum, we have closed the hotel to the public

From January 2 to January 28, the hotel will be open exclusively for all the important guests who will come from all over the world to attend the WEF. We have emptied almost half of the hotel to organize all the events and prepare the guests.

During the WEF, no one will have access to the hotel without their ID card. We have X-ray machines and metal detectors, and each and every person has to go through them to get into the building. It’s almost like an airport.

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Davos is like a military zone, with limited access and everything cordoned off. There are several security checkpoints that visitors must go through to reach the main street of Davos. That zone, about 300 or 400 meters, is strictly blocked, and you are not allowed to enter unless you are wearing a badge.

Of course, there are many policemen inside and outside of Davos, as well as thousands of security people and members of the military who look after the security of this event.

To host the WEF and its events, we have increased our staff by 150%

We have added 150 more employees, not counting the 100 workers who work in the construction of the hotel. It looks like a very busy construction site, but it’s the same as what you see along the main road in Davos.

There is a huge 3-storey pavilion that was built just for the forum, to house the press and WEF employees. I don’t even know how many people fit in it.

The Davos press and media center.

In the hotel we built 2 temporary pavilions with 2 floors. There are several events organized by important guests, and this is always a challenge when it comes to security. Companies like McKinsey and PricewaterhouseCoopers hold events like the famous tapas nights, where powerful people come together.

We have also built another 3 kitchens from which we can provide food exclusively for hotel guests and events organized here by forum participants. The food isn’t necessarily fancier, but it takes on a whole other dimension because we have events that are attended by a few hundred guests. These businesses organize and pay for the food to be served.

Food is more expensive than usual in the hotel due to investments that we have done: construction of pavilions and additional offices. We have to make up a huge cost, but the price depends on whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner and where it is served.

I run a 24 hour operation during the WEF

The day starts at 6am with breakfast, followed by lunch and more meetings, then dinner and late-night dinners that can last until 3 or 4 the next morning. Then everything starts again. It is a huge operation.

As a result, we have very limited time slots for the delivery of products or food. So if we don’t have something in stock and it has to be delivered, it becomes a real nightmare. There is a lot of traffic.

It is a 5 minute walk from the hotel to the conference center – the Davos Congress where the forum is held – but if you take a limousine (as many guests do) it can easily take 45 minutes. Also, it’s winter and minus 0 degrees, so it’s understandable that guests want to sit in the comfort of a limousine.

Each guest has specific needs and preparation requirements, which means that everything has to be changed in a very short time, which is quite a challenge.

FME participants expect everything to be in place when they arrive. There are so many dietary and special requirements for each guest. Last year, when the conference was in May, the forum was a bit more realistic, so people didn’t ask for crazy things and maybe there was less exclusivity in terms of food and drinks.

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A French public relations company manages our room inventory on behalf of the WEF, selling the rooms to companies and individual guests for us, so we don’t really know who is staying at our hotel until the very last moment. LRooms are probably 50% more expensive during this period, but individual prices depend on room type.

In addition, the minimum stay is 5 days. (Editor’s Note: Regular room prices at the Steigenberger Icon Grandhotel Belvédère typically range from €325 to €670 per night.)

Most of our staff are excited about Davos

It’s very interesting to see all these people: actors, musicians, politicians, businessmen, people you would never have dreamed of coming across. It is a very interesting melting pot. Anyone who comes to work here really wants to come back and join our team every year, but it’s hard work.

All staff members remain on site. If not, it would be impossible to do everything. We have a staff house, but we have placed extra beds in each and every room. We have up to 6 staff members sleeping in one room.

The staff hardly sleep, about 3 or 4 hours a night. Lots of candy bars and Redbull help keep morale high. I see employees wide-eyed and when they finish their workday they say, “I’ve met you, I’ve met you, I’ve met Angelina Jolie!” Imagine, you work 16, 17, 18 hours, but you don’t get tired because you are enthusiastic about everything.

People don’t get tired until they finish working and, within seconds, fall asleep. But when you’re immersed in all that work, You don’t have time to think about it.

Jobs can be competitive and you have to hire a lot, but Deutsche Hospitality, which owns the Steigenberger franchise, including this hotel, is a large hotel group, so we recruit staff from our other hotels. During the FME, our staff earn 25-35% more than their normal salary per hour.

The FME is also an important part of the hotel’s annual revenue.

January is a quiet time of the year for most hotels, so it’s easier to bring employees to Davos because they need the work. I don’t want to talk about hard numbers, but the WEF is important to us and to many other companies in Davos.

There really is nothing not to like about the Davos Forum. Imagine that the most important people in the world gather here, from politicians to businessmen and artists. Normally, you see them in the newspaper or on TV, but here they are all around the corner.

Do they change the world by meeting here? Maybe not. But it is important that they talk to each other. Even if it’s not monumental, I think it’s important that people talk to each other in this more relaxed environment.

We want to thank the author of this article for this outstanding material

I run a hotel in Davos where Bill Gates and other leaders stay for the World Economic Forum, we hardly sleep and live on Red Bull but we love it