TOURISM minister Martin Cullen amassed a travel bill of close to €50,000 in the space of just 12 months whilst in office.
Cullen, who took over the post from Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue, travelled abroad on seven occasions according to details obtained by the Sunday Tribune under the Freedom of Information Act.
During those seven trips, his total costs for flights, hotels, driver hire and other subsistence expenses came to a total of €49,599.30.
More than half of that money was spent on expensive trips to the Ryder Cup in Kentucky in September of 2008 and to the Olympics in Beijing last summer.
Cullen also travelled to New York, Houston, Miami, London and Brussels according to detailed itineraries made available.
Accommodation for the minister on his trip to the Ryder Cup in Kentucky cost more than $800 a night.
Cullen travelled to the golf event with three government employees: his private secretary John Conroy, secretary general of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism Con Haugh and the former head of Tourism Ireland, Paul O'Toole.
Most of the costs of the trip were paid for by Tourism Ireland, which provided €4,953 for flights to Chicago and onwards to Louisville for the minister.
The four men all stayed at the luxury Galt House Hotel in Kentucky where room costs ranged between €450 a night and €690 a night.
Cullen was booked into a suite while the other men were booked into standard rooms at the hotel, according to accommodation receipts.
The total cost of the trip ended up being at least €20,000, which does not include the cost of one flight and accommodation for Con Haugh, which has not been made available.
During the Ryder Cup, Cullen claimed €785.50 in expenses for a trip that was described as "tourism promotion". Car hire with Tatum Limo, including an airport transfer, cost €245.40, which included a €40 tip.
An overnight room in Chicago on the way to the golf tournament cost €153; the only other expense was €3.16 for internet access.
A two-day trip to New York in June of this year cost €5,044.97 with signs already pointing towards a tightening of the belt when it came to overseas travel.
Cullen stayed at the Fitzpatrick Hotel for the two nights at a total of €551.14.
Car hire for the trip, arranged through Smith Limousine Company, cost €935.20.
A return flight with Aer Lingus for the minister cost €2,600 whilst he also made a claim of €958.03 for subsistence and other expenses.
By stark contrast, no expense was spared when Cullen travelled to Beijing for the Olympics last summer where his total bill came to €21,961.06.
A detailed breakdown of those costs from the department revealed €7,106 was spent on a combination of flights for the minister.
He flew first class to Abu Dhabi and business class onwards to Beijing. On his return, he travelled from Hong Kong to London in first class and by economy flight back to Dublin.
A statement said: "The minister and his delegation [three officials] were in Beijing and Hong Kong for a total of 19 nights. The cost of the hotel accommodation for the minister per night was €528.
"The official civil service subsistence rate for the minister amounted to €149.74 per day [leading to a total claim of €2,845].
"Costs of flights and accommodation for events such as the Olympics are always at a high premium as both flights and accommodation are heavily booked. Both this department and the Department of Foreign Affairs, who were involved in the procuring of accommodation, made every effort to secure the best possible rates for the minister and his delegation."
For St Patrick's Day, Cullen travelled to Houston, Texas and onwards to Miami, Florida at a total cost of €8,043.
During the course of the trip, Cullen made subsistence claims, which came to €868.67 for what was labelled "tourism promotion" in the records.
A lengthy itinerary of flights from Dublin to London and on to Miami and Houston ended up costing the taxpayer €6,399.58 according to the figures.
Cullen also took advantage of some reasonable hotel rates while staying in Texas where he overnighted at the Hilton Hotel at a cost of €97 each night.
Use of a VIP suite for Cullen at Heathrow Airport cost €444.78, according to the records.
The minister made three other relatively inexpensive trips abroad in October and November of last year, the department said.
In October, he stayed a night in London for a Tourism Ireland board meeting where flights cost €548.70 and other expenses came to €945.54.
An airport pick-up and return, which was booked through Cartel Direct, cost €405 while the minister's personal expenses came to €540.24.
The following month, Cullen again travelled to London for the World Travel Market at a cost of at least €2,253.05.
A total of €521 was claimed in expenses whilst €1,732 was spent on car hire through Cartel Direct. No details of hotel or flight costs have been made available and it is unclear who paid the bill for that part of the visit.
Another trip that month saw Cullen travel by government jet to Brussels where he stayed a single night in the Belgian capital.
Accommodation at the Sofitel Hotel cost €395 for the night with a further €19 in room service later recouped by the department.
A further €549.95 was claimed by the minister in the category of "cash and other expenses".