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Enda Kenny is headed there, along with Denis O'Brien... So what's this Davos all about?

It’s a bit like school camp, but for billionaires.

switzerland-davos-forum-23 Taoiseach Enda Kenny at last year's event in Davos Source: Michel Euler/AP/Press Association Images

FOR THE 45TH time, the global elite will today meet for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting – better known as Davos.

Political leaders, billionaires and celebrities alike will descend on the Swiss resort town of about 11,000 residents that gives the four-day economic love-in its popular name.

So who’s turning up this year?

About 2,500 participants from over 100 countries are down to attend. They include numerous heads of state, top-level executives, religious leaders and 15 Nobel Laureates.

But to give you a better idea of the kind of clientele the event attracts, an estimated 1,700 private jets were expected to descend on Zurich, about 150km from the mountain town.

The irony of all those jets being used for a conference which featured discussions on tackling climate change wasn’t lost on some:

Guests at this year’s event include Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who tomorrow will join the Dutch and Finnish prime ministers for a discussion called: “How will Europe ensure political stability and deliver economic growth in 2015?”.

Meanwhile, media and telecoms magnate Denis O’Brien will be one of at least 100 billionaires flying in for the event.

He told Bloomberg the relationship between Europe, Russia and the US was the biggest issue facing the world economy as he joined the cohort descending on Davos.

Switzerland World Economic Forum O'Brien with former US president Bill Clinton at Davos in 2010 Source: Michel Euler/AP/Press Association Images

“The US and Europe have the wrong approach on Russia,” he said.

“The big issue here is whether the EU, US and IMF will help Ukraine prevent a default. If Europe doesn’t stand firm with the Ukrainians, the country will melt down.”

Among the other attendees were US singer Pharrell Williams, who joined former US vice president Al Gore to announce a major climate-change campaign event this morning.

The Duke of York, aka Prince Andrew, who has been on the receiving end of criticism over his publicly-funded spending and more recently been forced to deny allegations of having sex with a minor, is also on the list.

Switzerland World Economic Forum Davos Prince Andrew at Davos in 2008 Source: Michel Euler/AP/Press Association Images

The world’s richest man, Bill Gates, will be on hand with wife Melinda will talk about sustainable development.

Switzerland Davos Forum Gates at Davos in 2013 Source: Anja Niedringhaus/AP/Press Association Images

The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, is also a regular attendee and will this year take part in two discussions titled “keeping the faith” and “mastering the machines”.

Launch of Crosscare Reports Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Other attendees will include French President Francois Hollande, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and China’s richest man, Jack Ma.

How much does it cost? And can anyone go?

The cost? In a word, plenty.

Regular attendees have to hand over up to $30,000 (€26,000) per ticket and that doesn’t include annual membership of the forum – which comes in at $52,000 (€45,000) and is compulsory to even make it on the invite list. Heads of state and other dignitaries get to come for free.

Then there are the eye-watering food, accommodation and entertainment costs in the town, one of the most exclusive enclaves in a country which already boasts the highest cost of living in the world.

Numbeo No 1, with a bullet Source: Numbeo.com

And last week those prices got even higher as the Swiss central bank scrapped a cap on its currency, which sent the franc through the roof against the euro.

That brings the total estimated cost of sending an executive to the forum to a cool $200,000 (€172,000).

There are always ways of saving a few francs though…

But even if you have a loose $200,000 to throw around, the event is exclusive to invitees – making it off-limits to all but the elite.

Some 83% of Davos participants are male and 1870 out of the total come from either North America or Europe, according to the WEF’s figures. The average age for male attendees is 53 and the average age for women is 48.

Assuming you didn’t make the list, there a webcast of the event available if you feel like you’re missing out on all the action.

Williams2 Source: World Economic Forum/TheJournal.ie

What does everyone do there?

Talk about important, global stuff, or at least that’s the idea. Big topics on this year’s agenda include economic growth and stability, fighting corruption and “hyperconnectivity”.

Leaders such as German chancellor Angela Merkel and her European counterparts also have the chance to meet ahead of key developments like tomorrow’s European Central Bank meeting and this weekend’s Greek elections.

But the event is also a notorious schmooze-fest during which guests take the opportunity to hobnob with the world’s movers and shakers.

A big part of this are the unofficial parties that inevitable come with the event, such as former Facebook president Sean Parker’s 2013 “taxidermy party” or a 2003 midnight Superbowl extravaganza that included Bill Clinton among the guests.

94151-party-on-garth-party-on-wayne-3YHd Source: Imgur

READ: The top 1% could soon own more than HALF of global wealth >

READ: What 10 extremely successful people were doing when they were 25 >

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About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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