The journey to the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos is a long one for many participants, but it's far from arduous for the privileged.
It starts with an influx of private jets at Zurich airport, sending airport officials scrambling to accommodate the arrival of some of the world's most important business leaders and politicians. A surge of VIP flights then hits the private jet terminal -- which sends those who didn't register in time to smaller area airports.
Once on the ground, a VIP's journey to Davos, nestled at an altitude of 1,560 meters (5,118 feet), continues in style. Conference organizers provide information on how to arrive by helicopter, and even emissions standards guidelines for limousines.
This travel advice for the wealthy elite -- along with strict guidelines on cocktail attire for networking events -- seem far removed from the Forum's stated commitment to "improving the state of the world" and "mapping out solutions to global challenges."
(Read more: Is Income Inequality the Biggest Global Risk?)
But the organization argues that "far from being a 'rich man's club,' the World Economic Forum is a unique platform for progress on some of the most difficult problems facing the world today."
"It's not what happens in the sessions. It's what happens around the sessions that I think is important," said David Jones, CEO of advertising group Havas and one of the WEF's "Young Global Leaders."
"The world of business has had a big wake-up call and it realizes it needs to change."
But the youth branch of Switzerland's socialist party (Swiss Young Socialists) considers the gathering little more than a capitalist get-together. Last year the group occupied the icy streets of Davos with its "igloo camp." This year, it plans to create a "managers graveyard" to protest "speculation" in financial markets.
The Forum's 2,500 participants are meeting at a time of widespread discontent across Europe. Tough austerity measures have triggered a surge in unemployment. Income inequality is widening, causing a raging debate about taxing the ultra-rich in Europe and the United States.
(Read more: It's the US, Not Europe, Discussed at Davos)
The World Economic Forum's 2013 meeting wants to address the issue by focusing on "Resilient Dynamism." WEF Founder Klaus Schwab says it refers to an ability to "adapt to changing contexts, to withstand sudden shocks and to recover from them while still pursuing critical goals."
Future growth will require "dynamism – bold vision and even bolder action," he said.
That may not mean much to those out of work or facing cuts to their entitlements. But the Forum insists that bringing the "very best minds and experts" together will help leaders make decisions that can bring about change for the better.