TWO HUNDRED brand-new, imported Mercedes. ONE THOUSAND POUNDS for fresh flowers.

HALF A MILLION EUROS on an altar and circa 200,000 EUROS on a flight.

These are just a few of the luxuries the world’s super-rich have indulged in during their visits to Spanish shores.

As celebs, royals and the super rich descend on the Spanish coasts for the summer, Maya Eashwaran and Regina Lankenau see how their entourages and expenses stack up.

The Swazis

SWAZI: King Mswatti III

The Swazi king, Mswatti III, has long been criticised for his over-the-top spending habits, as his country is one of the poorest countries in the world.

For his 40th birthday celebration in 2008, by his own royal command, ‘a 15,000-seat stadium was built and a fleet of top-of-the-line BMW sedans was ordered for the comfort of visiting dignitaries’, according to the New York Times.

Since then, the material monarch’s taste for the high life has not waned.

Just earlier this year Mswatti III flew into Marbella for an extravagant stay at a villa in one of the city’s most expensive hotels – the Marbella Club, where rooms can cost a whopping €900 a night.

He arrived for his Spanish stay with all 14 wives and 35 children in tow, bookended by a massive security entourage.

Pope Benedict XVI

PREVIOUS POPE: Benedict XVI enjoyed frequent trips to Spain

This ultra-conservative El Papa whose papacy was tarnished by several scandals and a controversial past was a frequent flyer to Spain.

Among his most memorable trips was his visit to Valencia in 2006 for the fifth World Meeting for Families, a ‘public affirmation of the invaluable worth he places on the family’.

According to an audit, the Valencian government spent €3.1 million on public loos, €1.7 million on hotels for the papal entourage and his guests, more than €500,000 on 284 planters of varying sizes, €7.5 million on megaphones and screens and €1.5 million on the papal altar.

According to an audit, the Valencian government spent €3.1 million on public loos, €1.7 million on hotels for the papal entourage and his guests, more than €500,000 on 284 planters of varying sizes, €7.5 million on megaphones and screens and €1.5 million on the papal altar.

The official centre where the Pope celebrated mass cost 39% over the original budget, with €451,000 spent on the metal work, €124,000 on zoning costs, and the rest squandered on electricity, plumbing and special curtains of cold air to offset the heat from the television lights.

The audit was part of an investigation opened in 2016 into the Valencian government’s contracts under President Francisco Camps who, alongside the Archbishop of Valencia, was suspected of committing crimes of administrative prevarication, embezzlement and fraud.

The Pope’s 2010 pastoral trip around Spain was equally draining on the taxman, requiring a scandalous €4.8 million from public coffers to cover the costs.

The visit prompted Europa Laica-Observatoria de la Laicidad, an organisation advocating the separation of church and state, to marshal a ‘symbolic bill’ making both Pope and public aware of the exorbitant costs associated with his Spanish travels.

According to them, the papal visit to Santiago de Compostela cost taxpayers €3 million while his stop in Barcelona racked up another €1.8 million.

However, it was his visit to Madrid in 2011 that met with the biggest backlash.

Arriving in the capital for World Youth Day, this orthodox Pope brought with him a group (or should that be hoard) of 2 million young people whose stay ran up an eye-watering €50 million bill.

However 70% was paid by the kids themselves and 30% was covered by company donations.

The possible profits of the event were projected to be at more than €100 million.

David Cameron

SAM CAM: On break from Westminster

The ex-British PM’s visits to the Spanish coast have mainly been of a personal nature – family escapes away from Westminster to soak up some Mediterranean sun.

They like to fly by budget airline but they’re not averse to the lap of luxury when they get here.

Frequently snapped roaming the Spanish countryside hand-in-hand with his wife Samantha (‘Sam Cam’), the premier responsible for the Brexit referendum and his kids have made the trip to sunny Spain an almost annual affair going back several years.

Among the Camerons’ preferred spots are Mallorca, Ibiza, Granada, Ronda, and Lanzarote.

If recent visits are any indication, the latter appears to be a particular favourite.

Despite being known as a regular, the former British leader tends to lean towards low-profile holidays, often enjoying his vacation without much fanfare.

In 2011, he and his wife arrived in Granada unannounced – much to the surprise of the local Granadinos – to celebrate Samantha’s 40th birthday and their 15th wedding anniversary.

The couple flew in on budget airline Ryanair, and were tailed by an inconspicuous entourage of bodyguards as they strolled through Granada’s quintessential Alhambra, blending in like any other tourists.

In 2013 the pair enjoyed a quiet, week-long holiday relaxing beachside in Ibiza.

Although far from Downing Street, the leader remained connected through a ‘small team of key staff’ who kept him updated on developments in London.

The following year, the PM once again flew Ryanair to San Bartolome, on Lanzarote, where he was picked up from the landing strip in a guagua (a bus) and taken to a secure zone within Lanzarote airport, according to El Mundo.

Family in tow, the leader enjoyed his holiday accompanied by four bodyguards, each in separate cars, and stayed at Casa Tomaren, one of the most exclusive rural resorts in the area.

The visit caused a remarkable stir among the British press whose coverage of the Camerons at play was estimated to have an advertising value of more than €1.2 million.

Returning to Lanzarote in 2016, this time by EasyJet, the family was driven around in a Volvo without a significant entourage.

Notably, they stayed at Hotel Gran Castillo, an illegal hotel on the island whose building permit was revoked in 2007, as previously reported by The Olive Press.

Most conspicuously in 2017, on his 21 year anniversary holiday with his wife, the pair splurged on a chic €270-a-night Alcuzcuz resort in Benahavis.

The Saudis

PERSONAL PLAYGROUND: Replica Whitehouse in Marbella owned by Saudi Royals

Marbella is home to a replica of the United States White House known as Palacio Rocio.

Previously christened Palacio Mar-Mar, it is a 200-acre marble and gold personal playground for Saudi royals vacationing on the Costa del Sol.

The Saudis first put down roots in Marbella in 1974 with the arrival of King Fahd who visited the glitzy resort on a regular basis, accompanied by a numerically mind-boggling entourage, until his death in 2005.

During his final visit, Fahd arrived with a party of 3,000 hangers-on and injected some €90 million into the local economy during his seven-week vacation, according to The Guardian.

Fahd’s escapades in Marbella are extensively documented in a fashion that reads more like rumour than reality.

In 2002, the English Standard reported that Fahd spent thousands of pounds on silk sheets, villas, five-star hotels and other luxury accoutrements.

On fresh cut flowers alone, he splurged around one thousand pounds daily.

On top of this, each time he visited his palatial pad he would replace his stable of 200 Mercedes cars with the latest models.

At the end of the summer, it is said that the used cars of the House of Saud were stacked on top of each other in hangars to make room for next summer’s bounty.

The wealth of the Saudi royals contributed a large chunk of the Marbella economy, the excesses of the Fahd regime lining the pockets of everyone hired to work for them.

When word was out that they were back in town a crowd of eager locals looking for employment would gather and grow outside the palace gates.

Fahd’s big-spending ways made him a legend in Marbella where he reportedly splashed the cash to the tune of €32,692 a day during each of his frequent trips.

He has also made extremely large donations to Marbella in the past, including €2 million for a local affordable housing project in 2002.


By the mid-80s, the wealthy friends of Fahd had built over 400 mansions in the golden landscape of Marbella, as reported by the New York Times.

At the time of his demise, the king’s land in Marbella amounted to a staggering €120 million.

His death came as a blow to the entire community.

For three days, the flag was lowered to half mast as residents and particularly business-owners felt his loss both emotionally and financially.

The Kuwaitis

PETRODOLLARS: flow into the Costa del Sol

The Saudis were not the first to claim the Costa del Sol as theirs.

Kuwaiti royals and businessmen have been padding Marbella with petrodollars for over four decades, mainly investing in luxury property in Fuengirola, Mijas, Marbella and Sotogrande.

Unlike the Saudis, the Kuwaitis are known for their more reserved spending habits.

As reported by El Pais, one Kuwaiti entourage member stated that ‘the Kuwaitis have no need to show off their wealth’.

Indeed, despite being world famous for Saudi opulence in the area, the Kuwaitis own more property in Marbella than their Arabian neighbours.

Michelle Obama

FLOTUS: Michelle Obama in Marbella

The former First Lady of the United States’ 2010 vacation to Marbella and Mallorca attracted worldwide attention.

The ‘FLOTUS’ landed in Malaga in early August to a crowd of over 200 Spanish journalists and an assembly of uniformed Spanish Civil Guard, all of whom had been waiting for several hours for her arrival in the unforgiving Costa del Sol heat.

What was initially supposed to be a relaxing, private mother-and-daughter vacation quickly turned into the event of the year for the Spanish media.

According to the New York Times, Michelle was accompanied by her daughter, Sasha, two friends and four of their own daughters, several White House aides and a few select staff members.

They arrived in an Air Force One jet that cost over $11,000 an hour in operation costs, bringing the total cost of the 17+ hour round trip back and forth across the Pond to just under €177,408.

OBAMA VILLA: Cost up to €3,600 a night

While the Obamas were in flight, a fleet of 14 vehicles awaited in Malaga.

From there, they were whisked away to Marbella for a few days of luxury at the five-star Hotel Villa Padierna.

Michelle had booked around 30 extra rooms for her entourage, both security and staff.

The particular villa she stayed in, boasting three floors, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and three terraces, has since been renamed the Obama Villa.

This opulent pad, hemmed on all sides by pristine golf courses, can cost up to €3,600 a night.

Judicial Watch, a US-based conservative organisation, requested and obtained official travel expenses from the US Air Force and Secret Service, as well as documents from the Department of Homeland Security.

They reveal a total cost of €414,765 for the Obamas’ Spanish getaway.

Secret Service protection alone came to €225,716 — a sum that included the Obamas’ private car costs, payments to a travel company and secure hotel accommodation.

Bill Gates

Although never actually pictured, the Olive Press has it on good authority that the US billionaire visited Ronda back in 2012.

A loose-lipped vineyard owner told this paper how the Microsoft founder travelled to the area under the radar and amazingly without ANY form of security, at least none visible!

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