Hotel Tab for President's Entourage Is No Joke
KIEV, Ukraine -- It turned out not to be an April Fool's joke. And if anything, the joke is on us. Not only did the Radisson here jack up the rates for the traveling White House party, so did the Hyatt, where Bush, his top aides and the handful of journalists in the pool that sticks close to the president stayed the night.
In fact, one member of the press pool got a bill for $1,849 for one night's stay, not even counting room service. Given that the pool of reporters did not even get to the Hyatt until around midnight last night and checked out by 7 a.m. today to leave with the president again, that worked out to about $264 an hour.
The president's hotel often can be more expensive than the hotel where the rest of the media and staff stay because the White House and Secret Service sometimes clear out the entire building for security. But even so, an informal survey of White House press corps veterans who have been covering presidents for decades found no one who remembered rates as exorbitant as those charged here in Ukraine.
It's unclear why that happened. One commenter on our earlier blog posting suggested the Radisson was trying to recoup money lost last year when the White House supposedly booked the hotel and canceled just a day before a scheduled arrival. It's true that the White House has considered traveling to Ukraine before and scrubbed the plans, though certainly not the day before a supposed visit since none was ever actually formally scheduled. But a U.S. official involved in travel logistics said it is possible that the hotels jacked up the rates to make up for a previously canceled trip.
While all this may just seem like whining, the gouging in Kyiv is an example of why many financially pinched news organizations are no longer traveling with the president. And it may not be the worst example this year. Bush has five more overseas trips planned for the rest of the year, including one to China this summer for the Olympics. The hotel in Beijing tried to charge the White House staff and press for 21 nights in August, even though the president and his entourage will stay just a few days. The White House has negotiated the minimum charge down to seven nights, but even that will mean thousands of dollars per person.
"The price inflation when the White House comes to town is unbearable," said Ann Compton of ABC News, the president of the White House Correspondents' Association. "And the Summer Olympics promises to be a nightmare."
-- Peter Baker
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