August 17, 2022

The Bali Sun has the story of how a travel blogger was asked to leave Indonesia because of his inaccurate claims about immigration wait times at Denpasar Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS).

Blogger claims 5+ hour immigration line in Bali

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

Bali Airport Has Become A Total Hellhole With Up To Five Hours Immigration Lineups – Stay Away!

While Sebastian paid for a fast track service at the airport, he claimed “people waited for 5:20h+ in the immigration line,” and that people “were close to a breakdown after over five hours of standing in line.”

He claims that people needed medical attention, and that children and adults were crying. He also said that he talked to someone in the front of the long time about how long they had been there. He claims that the person looked at their 10AM receipt of having paid for a visa, and at this point it as 3:25PM, so they had been there for over five hours.

Authorities fight back, revoke blogger’s visa

The story ended up going viral, and caught the attention of the Deputy Governor of Bali, as well as immigration officials, who were worried about the impact of this story 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 a fast track service).

In fairness, the blogger never claimed to have personally waited for over five hours, but did authoritatively say that others were waiting for that long, and said people should stay away from Bali because of that.

The Bali Ministry of Law and Human Rights has allegedly revoked the blogger’s 30 day tourist visa on arrival, asking him to leave Indonesian territory. The reason? He didn’t have any first-hand evidence or experience of the alleged five hour queues.

Officials did confirm it was an especially busy day for arrivals, but claimed that during peak hours some people had to wait for up to two hours to be processed, and not for over five hours. As you’d expect, Friday afternoon is a peak arrival period, and 16 immigration counters are allegedly undergoing renovations ahead of the G20 Summit in November.

Sebastian allegedly met with the head of immigration at the airport personally, and said that authorities “were very approachable” (presumably this was before they asked him to leave). After seeing figures presented by officials, he also reports that he doesn’t think someone who arrived at 10AM would have still been waiting after 3PM.

My take on this situation

This is a tricky situation. Admittedly anyone can publish anything on the internet, and there are going to be a lot of false claims out there. As a travel blogger as well, I can certainly appreciate that it’s nice when a story goes viral. Claiming an airport is a “hellhole” and that there were immigration wait times of over five hours (which is unheard of) is one way to make sure a story goes viral.

The issue is that the claim actually has to be true. If this entire story is based on the claim of one person he allegedly asked, then perhaps he can throw that in a story as an anecdote of what someone claimed, rather than making this the basis of the story, and claiming that’s how long everyone was waiting.

Admittedly every country and destination is different when it comes to the extent to which you’ll get away with making false claims. In some places you can claim whatever, and you’re unlikely to have authorities come after you. Meanwhile with Thailand’s defamation laws, travelers can be punished for writing negative hotel reviews online, even if they’re true.

At a minimum, in this case I’m not surprised that authorities in Indonesia took action. Bali’s biggest industry is tourism, and this isn’t a good look. Given this particular blogger’s track record of exaggerating issues, I’d say this punishment was probably warranted.

Bottom line

Bali has kicked out a travel blogger who claimed that Denpasar Airport is a hellhole, and that people were waiting in line for well over five hours to get processed through immigration. This was allegedly based on a data point from one person there.

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

This is a good reminder that it’s important to be accurate and not exaggerate or embellish when writing things online, especially when you’re a guest in another country.

What do you make of this story?

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