Bali policemen target tourists driving cars or motorbikes, do we hear repeatedly now. That perception could spread quickly if it is not already done. Right or wrong, this is extremely vicious for island reputation and tourism growth. Of course, Bali tourism is strong, but what is the price tag the island will pay, or is already paying, in regard on the image, the integrity and number of tourists lost with that perception. Tourists want to have fun and avoid destinations with hassles. The Bali tourism growth is needed for the economic vitality and to enhance population quality of life. Must we believe that it is not important for leaders? "Who does not say anything, agree" proverb says.
I traveled a lot by cars and motorbikes. In all countries, I like to drive everywhere and consider myself as a careful driver. For 30 years, I never received any fine in all countries I visited. In Bali, in less than 30 minutes, I received 2 fines on Ngurah Rai By Pass. On January 15, 2011, 2 policemen have stopped me because my turn signal was still on. I thought it was to warn me n apologize. But they gave me a fine telling me I have to go in court to pay it. I told him I do not want to go in court. One policeman told me he would represent me in court if I paid my fine to him. I did it and signed a document but they did not give me any copy. On next corner, 10 minutes later, 2 other policemen have stopped me because it seems I went straight after I stopped on a turn left lane. Same scenario but they did not ask me to sign document. Each time they asked me what I am doing as work. Were they afraid I am a journalist? The day after, I stopped at the same corner and at least 10 local motorbikes drivers did the same as me. The policeman on opposite corner was looking at them and never moved. A friend of mines live the same experience 4 months ago on same corner. So the Bali’s policemen reputation seems true.
My first reaction is to put Bali on my black list of destinations to recommend to friends and relatives. Say something nice about one destination will hardly convince one person to visit, but say something bad will convince easily ten to avoid it. The tourists must follow street regulations. But would it be too much, like in many countries, to understand they cannot know all street regulations? Except if tourist is not polite or the offense is very serious, why do not be more cordial, explain them what they did wrong and give them a chance. And by cordiality, I do not refer to the policeman’s smile that take your money and will put it in his pocket. Tourists are coming from elsewhere but they are not idiots.
The Bali’s leaders must change that perception before it becomes a cancer for their economy. Of course some tourists have bad behaviors and are disturbing, but it is not a reason to act with all of them in the same way. If this is Balinese hospitality, there are other destinations to visit and offering attractions. It would be bad that tourists leave Bali with image done by their policemen. Balinese deserve better than that.
I have access to many written and spoken media in my country and I resist for now to use them to express my disappointment on the island of gods. It is difficult to build an image, but so easy to loose it, because the reputation of a country or an island is pretty fragile sometimes.