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Bali punishes travel blogger for false airport claims

The Bali Sun recounts how a travel blogger was asked to leave Indonesia within 30 days due to his inaccurate statements about immigration wait times at Denpasar Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS).

Blogger claims more than 5 hours of immigration queue in Bali

On July 29, 2022, Sebastian from LoyaltyLobby posted about his experience entering Bali. The post had the following title at the time (which has since been changed):

Bali Airport has turned into total hell with up to five hours of immigration queues – Stay clear!

While Sebastian paid for expedited service at the airport, he claimed ‘people waited over 5:20 in the immigration line’ and people ‘were about to break down after over five hours of queuing”.

He claims people needed medical attention and children and adults were crying. He also said he had spoken to someone in front a long time ago about how long they had been there. He claims the person looked at his 10 a.m. receipt for paying for a visa, and at that point it was 3:25 p.m., so she had been there for over five hours.

The authorities retaliate and ask the blogger to leave

The story eventually went viral and caught the attention of Bali’s Deputy Governor, as well as immigration officials, who were concerned about the story’s impact on the island’s public image. . Authorities launched an investigation and found that Sebastian had “only” been at the airport for a total of 53 minutes (which is still a long time, especially if you paid for expedited service).

In all honesty, the blogger never claimed to have personally waited more than five hours, but authoritatively said others waited that long and said people should stay away from Bali because of it.

Bali’s Ministry of Justice and Human Rights has reportedly asked the blogger to leave Indonesia once his 30-day tourist visa expires, meaning it cannot be extended. The reason? He had no evidence or first-hand experience of the alleged five-hour queues.

Officials confirmed it was a particularly busy day for arrivals, but said during peak hours some people had to wait up to two hours to be processed, not more than five hours. As you’d expect, Friday afternoon is a peak arrival time, and 16 immigration counters are reportedly being refurbished ahead of the G20 summit in November.

Sebastian reportedly met the immigration official personally at the airport and said the authorities “were very approachable”. After seeing the numbers presented by officials, he also reports that he doesn’t think anyone who arrived at 10 a.m. would have waited until after 3 p.m.

My opinion on this situation

It’s a tricky situation. Granted, anyone can post anything on the internet, and there will be a lot of misrepresentation. As a travel blogger too, I can definitely understand that it’s good when a story goes viral. Claiming that an airport is ‘hell’ and that there have been immigration wait times of over five hours (which is unheard of) is one way to ensure a story gets viral.

The problem is that the statement must be true. If this whole story is based on someone’s assertion that he asked, then maybe he can throw that into a story as an anecdote of what someone claimed, rather than make the base of the story and pretend that’s how long everyone was waiting for.

Granted, every country and destination is different when it comes to how well you’ll get away with misrepresentation. In some places, you can claim anything, and the authorities are unlikely to prosecute you. Meanwhile, with Thailand’s defamation laws, travelers can be punished for writing negative hotel reviews online, even if they are true.

At a minimum, in this case, I am not surprised that the Indonesian authorities have taken action. Bali’s biggest industry is tourism, and it’s not a pretty sight. Given this blogger’s track record of exaggerating issues, I’d say he got away with it very easily.

At the end of the line

Bali asked a travel blogger to leave within 30 days, without the possibility of extending his visa. This is because he claimed Denpasar airport is hell and people were queuing for more than five hours to be processed through immigration. This would have been based on a data point from a person there.

However, authorities investigated and found wait times were only two hours, and even the blogger now agrees that this information was likely accurate.

It’s a good reminder that it’s important to be specific and not to exaggerate or embellish when writing things online, especially when you’re invited to another country. One has to wonder if Indonesia will issue visas to him in the future.

What do you think of this story?