On the Plane

In Kiev, Presidential Bubble Feels Pinch of Dollar's Demise

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Bush is on the road again, landing here in this former Soviet republic this evening for the first leg of a week-long trip that will also take him to Romania, Croatia and eventually Russia as he tries to reorganize the security architecture of Europe before leaving office.

As we have in recent months, we'll be blogging the trip along the way to give a sense of what it looks, sounds and feels like on a presidential overseas journey. So far, there's not that much to tell -- the president arrived here on Air Force One late this evening, accepted the traditional greeting gift of bread and salt at the airport and headed immediately to bed before his meetings tomorrow.

But anytime the president travels abroad, a whole entourage of aides, Secret Service agents, military officers, advance people and journalists arrives first to set up. Multiple cargo jets filled with the president's sophisticated helicopters and armored limousines land in advance. And with scores and even hundreds of people involved in setting up the complicated logistics of such a trip, these excursions are usually good for the local economy.

They're not always so good for the budgets of news organizations and government agencies that go along, however. Take the Radisson SAS Hotel here in Kiev, where White House staff and journalists are staying. It's not uncommon for hotels to jack up the rates a bit to take advantage of the captive audience. But the Radisson may be hitting a recent record in presidential profiteering, charging those following Bush more than $1,000 a night. In Kiev.

Our own bill, to take an example, comes to $1,071 -- exactly double the already steep $535 rate for the same room advertised on the Radisson Web site, including the 20 percent value added tax. Some colleagues were put in even pricier rooms.

And Kiev isn't even hosting a big multinational summit, as Bucharest, Romania, will later this week, when dozens of heads of state will show up with their own traveling parties for a NATO meeting, taxing the local infrastructure. Nor does that count the additional charges the White House press pays for a ballroom to be set up as a filing center or the food that is served.

Maybe tomorrow morning the Radisson will tell us it was just an April Fool's joke and deliver a more reasonable bill.

-- Peter Baker

Related Story: Bush to Meet NATO Allies Divided Over Adding Troops in Afghanistan.

By washingtonpost.com Editors |  March 31, 2008; 7:25 PM ET  | Trip:  Bush in Eastern Europe, April 2008
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Comments

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I sure am glad that Bush can do all this traveling to see where he shipped all of America's manufacturing to and of course buy things before the importing them to the USA makes them very, very expensive since the dollar isn't worth chit, and even the Peso is catching up

Posted by: John C. Page III | March 31, 2008 9:04 PM

Not only the dollar's decline abroad, but Bush's as well. His influence has fizzled. He'll all but be ignored by world leaders. Contrast that to his father's or Bill Clinton's; they're still respected around the world.
But not Dubya. World leaders will know the lame duck is arriving as soon as they catch sight of Lame Duck One he'll be flying in.

Posted by: Chris | March 31, 2008 9:12 PM

Stop being unjust to the Raddion hotel in Kiev.
Radisson has at least two reasons to double the price:
1)the whole hotel is occupied by Bush and his staff, no regular visitors can be accomodated during those days - it means that some rooms remain empty.
2) when Bush planned his visit in May 2007, the same story happened - the whole hotel was booked out, and than the visit was canceled one day prior to arrival. Radisson was empty for 3 days....entirely empty - and NOBODY has reimburced them those looses!!!
All other big hotels were making fun of Radisson management for next couple of months in Kiev after that!!!
If I would be Radisson I would tripple the price, not just double!!!!
BTW - I hope the author will enjoy Kiev - its one of the BEST cities in the world I've been to!!!!

Posted by: from Kiev with love | March 31, 2008 9:22 PM

The Ukrainians ought to be ashamed of themselves for taking advantage of such a one-sided opportunity to exploit visitors. It just reinforces the perception that the country is run by larcenous gangsters. We should be very careful about entering into mutual security pacts with the type of people who would do this to guests.

Posted by: TyroneSlothrop | April 1, 2008 1:48 AM

To Kiev with love: You're absolutely right about Kiev -- it is a wonderful city. As a former correspondent in this part of the world, I've visited any number of times and always enjoy the stay. But I'm afraid you're wrong about the Radisson. The president is not staying in this hotel, only staff and press, and there is no security reason to clear out any rooms or double the price. We travel with the president all around the world, to hotels in every city, and no hotel that I remember has ever charged us this much. It's this sort of gouging that has made a number of news organizations stop traveling with the president -- and that means fewer journalists are here to write about how wonderful Kiev is. Thanks for posting. Peter Baker

Posted by: Peter Baker | April 1, 2008 2:39 AM

To Kiev with love: You're absolutely right about Kiev -- it is a wonderful city. As a former correspondent in this part of the world, I've visited any number of times and always enjoy the stay. But I'm afraid you're wrong about the Radisson. The president is not staying in this hotel, only staff and press, and there is no security reason to clear out any rooms or double the price. We travel with the president all around the world, to hotels in every city, and no hotel that I remember has ever charged us this much. It's this sort of gouging that has made a number of news organizations stop traveling with the president -- and that means fewer journalists are here to write about how wonderful Kiev is. Thanks for posting. Peter Baker

Posted by: Peter Baker | April 1, 2008 2:44 AM

Kiev is a very nice city but an absolute racket when it comes to prices, this town is run by oligarchs and their cronies who artificially inflate prices by taking their cut along the way. Housing doesn't get built because they can't organize fair land sales and construction lingers because they are fronts for money laundering. Casinos and many restaurants also serve this same function. It's a great town but could be so much more.

Posted by: Alan | April 1, 2008 6:12 AM

Is Bush trolling for an assassination?
Is that his way out of the legacy conundrum?
He's really hooked on the 'Lincoln thing' and spending too much time in danger zones.

Posted by: helloboyd | April 1, 2008 6:49 AM

The only consolation about the outrageous prices at the Radisson SAS is that they would have probably been even higher at other Kyiv luxury hotels.

I use the word "luxury" advisedly. Although Kyiv is one of the most expensive cities in Europe for foreigners (it is on par with Vienna), tourists and businessmen do not get fair value for the money they spend.

In the specific case of hotels, the unreasonably high prices in Kyiv are largely due to the corruption of the Kyiv city authorities. For years, the city was unwilling to allow the construction of new hotels, since to do so would have cut into the profit margins of the substandard Soviet-style hotels that are still operating in Kyiv, and whose finances are controlled by the the city government and various Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs.

This has created the current situation in which the supply of decent hotels has been artificially depressed, and in which existing hotels are able to charge prices that would be unacceptable elsewhere.

This will have to change, as will the pervasive climate of official corruption, if Kyiv is to attract additonal tourist and business travelers. A thousand dollars a night for a hotel room in Kyiv? Not unless somebody puts a gun to my head.

Posted by: Beach Boy | April 1, 2008 1:07 PM

Any thought on staying at the motel next store to the Radisson? That way you are close enough to monitor but you can save the Post some money?

Posted by: Budget Office | April 1, 2008 2:46 PM

The question is: Are there enough billionaires from the Russian Oligarchy to allow President Bush to convince them that the master plan is working? The Oil Rich are getting richer and the rest eat the crums from trickle down cake and are doing quite well. Their new democracy is working--Now they simply must learn who's boss--The Star Wars team of George soon to be John. Imagine a Peaceful World--Bush Style.

Posted by: Faded Dreams | April 1, 2008 10:55 PM

TO Peter Baker: Oh, u r absolutely right!!!I completely forgot that president stays at the special protocol house!!!
But about Radisson - the high prices is probably a payback for the last year story, when they were empty for couple of days. BTW, as of august 2007, the american guy from US embassy in Kyiv who is in charge of accomodation arrangements is a VERY good friend of Conrad Mayer(i dont remember how to spell his name correctly)- the head manager of the hotel. Maybe management have changed, I havent been in Ukraine since than, and dont know any news on that:):):)
I hope u enjoyed Kyiv, despite all the street anger that was happening over there during Bush visit.People on the streets were just paid to protest and stay there. If offer a U.S. green card or visa to any of them - 99.9% will be happy to accept that.Good luck with further travelling and NATO summit!

Posted by: from Kiev with love | April 2, 2008 2:18 AM

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