By JERYL BIER, The Weekly Standard AUGUST 19, 2015
Last week, THE WEEKLY STANDARD reported on a $412,000 contract for 1,280 sleeping room nights at the Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. However, at least two other hotels were booked for the visit, and a fourth hotel was also used, although no contract has yet been posted. The new revelations more than double the cost to $837,000.
According to the hotel’s website, the Capital Hotel and Spa was awarded Ethiopia’s first five-star rating just days after the president’s visit.
The total of the three posted contracts comes to $837,700. However, according to official White House photographer Pete Souza, the president actually stayed in a suite at the Sheraton Hotel, a 294-room hotel in the Ethiopian capital. Souza shared this information in an anecdote on the White House Medium site:
During that same trip in 2006, the Senator [Obama] had also visited the Republic of Djibouti. We weren’t able to accompany him on that leg of the trip. So instead we had to stay overnight at a hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. My colleague at the time, Jeff Zeleny — the king of hotel points — was able to secure a suite at the Sheraton hotel. Nine years later, when we returned to Addis Ababa this week, President Obama stayed in the very same suite.
A Florida-based businessman who was in Addis Ababa during the president’s visit provided confirmation during an interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD. The businessman stayed in the Hilton which “was crawling with support staff and security”, but “the President stayed across the street at the Sheraton. The U.S. locals I was working with told me that the U.S. Government had bought out the entire Sheraton while Obama was in Addis.”
Sheraton was also the host for at least two meetings the president participated in during his stay, a “multilateral meeting on South Sudan and counterterrorism issues with Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, the African Union and Uganda” and “a meeting with Ethiopian civil society activists.”
The value of the Sheraton contract would likely push the total cost of lodging for the Ethiopia leg of the trip over $1 million, but as noted earlier, it has not yet been posted. Contracts for the Kenya stop have not been posted either. The president spent two nights in Ethiopia and two nights in Kenya during his visit to Africa.
This article is reprinted with the permission of The Weekly Standard, where it originally appeared.