The Two Million Dollar Man

Obama’s 2-Day South Africa Trip Cost $2.2 Million in Hotel, Transportation Costs

President Obama on Africa trip, June 27, 2013 / Flickr
October 1, 2013

President Barack Obama’s two day trip to South Africa in June cost taxpayers more than $2.2 million on hotel room and rental car costs alone, according to documents released by the State Department on Sunday.

All told, the trip cost as much as $100 million according to a pair of Republican House members.

The first family’s trip to sub-Saharan Africa was criticized by Reps. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.) and Steve Stockman (R., Texas) in June for its high price tag in the wake of budget cuts due to sequestration, though the visit went on as planned.

The president’s "VIP visit" to Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Cape Town on June 29 and 30 cost $2,210,840.46 in hotel and transportation expenses alone, according to four contracts released by the State Department.

Europcar, owned by the French investment company Eurazeo, and Kwathlano, a South African car rental service, were used for transport to Pretoria and Johannesburg, costing a total of $1,003,382.

Transportation to Cape Town, which was also provided by Europcar, cost $702,342.90.

For "POTUS Accommodation" a contract was awarded to the Radisson Blu hotel in "upscale Sandton" totaling $505,115.56.

The State Department said security and logistics are the primary consideration when booking hotels. Other hotels deemed adequate were the Radisson Blu Gautrain, Park Inn, and a Holiday Inn in Johannesburg.

Hotels were considered if they could "support a large visit that meets VIP visitor expectations and standards." The president reportedly traveled with an entourage of 1,000.

The president’s stay in South Africa was brief. According to the White House schedule, Obama arrived in Pretoria on June 29, holding a bilateral meeting and joint press conference with President Jacob Zuma of South Africa.

He traveled to Cape Town on June 30, making a stop at Robben Island, the former prison where Nelson Mandela was held. Obama then left South Africa, arriving in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on July 1.

The entire trip, which also included a stop in Senegal, had an estimated cost as high as $100 million, mostly for security purposes. Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said the trip offered "great bang for our buck" because of potential for "long-standing and long-running impact from the visit."

Military cargo planes were used to airlift in a 56-vehicle motorcade for the visit, including 14 limousines and three trucks filled with bullet­proof glass to cover the hotel windows, according to the Washington Post.

The transportation contracts required passenger vehicles, SUVs, vans, buses, pickup trucks for supplies, and others to be "used in support of a VIP visit."

Members of Congress criticized Obama for taking an "excessive" trip following budget cuts mandated by sequestration.

"For the cost of this trip to Africa, you could have 1,350 weeks of White House tours, which the White House has canceled indefinitely due to budget constraints," said Rep. George Holding (R., N.C.).

"The American people have had enough of the frivolous and careless spending, and they deserve real, appropriate cuts from this excessive administration," he said.

The administration has no plans to cancel a similarly costly upcoming trip to Asia, regardless of a government shutdown.

Requests for comment from the State Department were not returned.