The Grandhotel Belvedere sits majestically on a hill overlooking Davos. It’s aptly named. The Belvedere resembles a magnificent Alpine stately home. ‘Five-star plus with old-school charm’ is how one recent guest described their stay here.
How much does a room cost? It’s impossible to say at the moment because the gilded establishment, just down the road from Klosters, is currently closed to ‘ordinary’ members of the public.
Here’s a clue, though. The going rate for basic rooms in Davos — without even a TV or desk — is currently an inflation-busting £800 a night, which gives some indication of what the guests who have been booked into the Belvedere are shelling out.
Then again, the tab they pick up at the Belvedere is little more than small change for these people: they are hedge funders, bankers, chief executives, investors — the so-called ‘masters of the universe’ — who have descended on the Swiss resort, two hours from Zurich, for a meeting of the World Economic Forum.
‘Five-star plus with old-school charm’ is how one recent guest described their stay at the Grandhotel Belvedere, which sits majestically on a hill overlooking Davos
Nearly 3,000 conference delegates were in town for the five-day jamboree, the first in the post-pandemic era, said to provide an £80 million boost to the local economy.
But there is another ‘economy’ in Davos (pop. just over 11,000) which also receives a considerable boost from the summit — a world that exists in parallel with the earnest discussions on the debating floor of the Congress Centre, and that is the so-called ‘oldest profession in the world’.
Prostitution is legal in Switzerland, with sex workers expected to pay taxes, register with local authorities and undergo regular health checks. And business is booming.
Earlier this week, high-class escort Salome Balthus, 36, revealed how she had been booked by a delegate. Speaking exclusively to MailOnline after leaving the plush hotel where she had been staying with her client, she said: ‘Davos is all about power, money and sex, and all three make good bedfellows.
‘I have a regular client and he asked me to meet him at Davos as he was attending. I told him I was in Germany, but he arranged flights and a car for me. We stayed in a beautiful hotel in Davos, drinking champagne and eating fabulous meals.
I gave him what he required and he was very satisfied, but it’s also not just about sex, my clients like to have intelligent conversation as well.
‘I enjoy my work and it’s not all lying on my back, it’s also helping someone to unwind and relax . . . but you really can’t expect me to tell you who my client is.
Prostitution is legal in Switzerland, with sex workers expected to pay taxes, register with local authorities and undergo regular health checks
Salome said: ‘The fact I have a degree in philosophy and German literature guarantees that they will not only have a good time sexually but also intellectually’
‘All I will say is that he has a lot of money and you don’t want trouble in court . . . I would be in big trouble if I shared some of the secrets I have learned to keep.’
Salome, who has her own escort agency in Berlin, called Hetaera, added: ‘My clients are always of a very high standard and the fact I have a degree in philosophy and German literature guarantees that they will not only have a good time sexually but also intellectually.
‘I have a wonderful silver fox client, who likes me to wear a see-through blouse and talk French to him because it reminds him of a forbidden love he had as a schoolboy.
‘He was just 12 and his French teacher was in her 20s and was stunningly beautiful. He would fantasise about her so that’s what he wants from me — to dress in a see-through blouse and talk French.’
Salome is by no means alone. Davos is also providing much business for Amy, who runs the Pink Sheets escort agency in Amsterdam, and has had to send a team of girls to sate the peccadilloes of the world’s economic high-flyers.
‘I’ve sent six girls to Davos and it’s been good for us, in fact we first started getting enquiries around two months ago. Business has been so good there that a couple of the girls have been asked to extend their stay by the clients for the weekend.
‘They are having a fabulous time, luxury hotels, fine food and they are great company for the clients.
Davos is also providing much business for Amy, who runs the Pink Sheets escort agency in Amsterdam, and has had to send a team of girls to sate the peccadilloes of the world’s economic high-flyers
‘My girls are mainly students in their 20s who are paying for university or have finished their studies and need to pay loans back.
‘I don’t up [our] rates for Davos, as I like to remain transparent obviously. I expect the travel and any incidental accommodation expenses to be met by the clients.
‘Most of the bookings in Davos are for two days, so that is 6,000 euros plus, as I mentioned earlier, any expenses. This is a great way for them to make money and I’m hoping that by going to Davos the girls will network and the clients will also mention us so we can get some more business.
‘We cater for anything a client desires, within reason, and the feedback I have had from my girls in Davos has been very good. They send me smiley faces and thumbs-up emojis.
‘All I will tell you is the clients are a mixture of politicians and business leaders . . . although the majority of clients do book the girls for sex, there are also a few who just want to talk after a long, hard, busy day and let off steam.’
Salome said: ‘I have a wonderful silver fox client, who likes me to wear a see-through blouse and talk French to him because it reminds him of a forbidden love he had as a schoolboy’
British prostitutes, too, can be found in Davos. On the website of the international escort agency Swiss Eve, there are a number of British girls.
One, who advertises a ‘Davos tour’, is 26-year-old ‘Crystal’, a ‘classy and elegant model’ normally based in London, who charges £3,000 for a six-hour booking at the ‘client’s hotel’. Swiss Eve rates the Belvedere very highly on its website.
It was one of the top three hotels in Davos at which its young women enjoyed entertaining — ‘a magnificent palace’ with ‘luxurious suites and incredibly well-trained staff’, to quote one such young woman on the Swiss Eve website, who concluded: ‘As an escort lady, the Grandhotel Belvedere is the best address in Davos for me.’
Other hotels popular with prostitutes are the five-star AlpenGold and Hotel Rixos Fluela Davos. There is no suggestion, of course, that any of them are allied with these agencies or the activities of the prostitutes.
Men paying women for sex is a story as old as time but, even so, it is still mildly shocking that all this seems to be taking place on an industrial scale in Davos, however upmarket the backdrop might be.
Salome said: ‘Davos is all about power, money and sex, and all three make good bedfellows’
Other hotels popular with prostitutes are the five-star AlpenGold and Hotel Rixos Fluela Davos (Pictured: The hotel AlpenGold, in Davos)
The official line on escorts, not just in Switzerland, but in many countries including Britain, is that they are remunerated for their time and what they do with it is up to them. (It is the act of public soliciting in Britain, remember, which is the crime, not the act of selling sex itself.)
This laissez-faire approach has been credited with reducing violence against sex workers and human trafficking but, of course, those who work in the sex industry occupy every social and economic stratum. The women who descend on Davos are very different to those who ply their trade in the big Swiss cities’ ‘sex booths’, which look and operate very similarly to rented lock-up garages, and the red light districts, known as ‘Strassenstrich’, where women can only be picked up by clients at fixed times.
The Davos women, by contrast, are smartly dressed in business suits, so they don’t stand out, and often well-educated.
The reason for that, of course, is the clientele. Three-quarters of the more than 2,700 delegates assembled at the ski resort are men and the place is awash with money.
When we visited, the front of the Belvedere was partially obscured by a wall of giant billboards bearing such names as Bank of America, IBM, Standard Chartered, Dow Jones and Wall Street Journal.
Shops on the promenade, the main strip which runs through Davos, had been converted into corporate hospitality lounges for tech companies and more banks.
Even Manchester United had one fitted out with louche velvet chairs and coffee served by staff in bow ties. During the week, a nightcap for guests, with canapes and a speciality ‘red devil’ cocktail, was hosted by legendary United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel.
The official line on escorts, not just in Switzerland, but in many countries including Britain, is that they are remunerated for their time and what they do with it is up to them
The nights here are a never-ending round of private parties. One was taking place at the Belvedere when we arrived at around 2am on Thursday. The security guard refused entry to anyone who did not have a pass.
The ground-floor room, where the bubbly was flowing, had been blacked out but, through the small gaps at the side, a throng of smartly dressed people could be glimpsed.
‘How do you bypass security at hotels?’ we asked a 30-year-old escort who goes by the name of Tiffany, during a WhatsApp conversation with her.
‘Discretion is the number one skill for an escort — especially a high-end one,’ she replied. ‘I wear normal clothes — a purple suit and a black coat — to make it look like I am actually part of the conference scene,’ she says before adding: ‘Sure I can get in baby, I got ID, passport and vaccination card. I just tell reception I am here as a guest . . . I command power in the bedroom and the boardroom.’
On the way back from the Belvedere in the small hours of Thursday, where the party was still in full swing, we passed the Europe Hotel, which contains the Piano Bar.
A notorious late-night drinking den, it was the subject of a Channel 4 Dispatches investigation into the underbelly of Davos a few years ago, when a Swiss asset manager was observed twice entering a cubicle in the women’s bathroom with a young blonde woman. When they emerged, a friend of the man told an undercover reporter she had been paid for a sexual act.
Little seems to have changed since then in the Piano Bar — a mass of heaving bodies and clinking glasses in an almost pitch-black pit of a room on the first floor.
One of the people who emerged from the scrum was a young American from a tech firm who had just attended a party in the penthouse above. ‘At the Europe,’ he said, ‘you stand at the bar and point upstairs, whereas at the Belvedere you have to make a call.’
Making a call to Swiss Eve or Salome Balthus is normally how it works in Davos. ‘These agencies use many, many ways to get girls to Davos — cars, trains, and even helicopters,’ he told us. ‘They are then put up in apartments by the escort agencies.
‘Basically, they are all in place and positioned so that at the drop of a hat they can take a call, entertain a client for a couple of hours, then go straight back to the apartment and wait for the next call, then go out again.’
At a previous summit, it was estimated the 433 guest speakers had a net average worth of £296 million a head. Perhaps the more intriguing question this year is: what’s the net worth of the escorts who came here?
- Additional reporting: Mark Branagan and Rob Hyde