The Proof is in the Pudding! “Influencers” Have Tainted This Popular Travel Spot

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Influencers Have Tainted This Popular Travel Spot
Grand Hyatt Bali

The Proof is in the Pudding! “Influencers” Have Tainted This Popular Travel Spot

A few months ago I wrote a post, Why You Will Never See A Trip Report to the Maldives from Me! That sparked some debate and there was some disagreement about what I was trying to get across.  I was a little clunky in my delivery of the underlying issue I was trying to get at.  Because of that I did a follow up post:

Have Influencers, Bloggers & Social Media Skewed Our Travel Perceptions & Enjoyment?

I encourage you to read both of them if you haven’t already and especially read the comments in both.  A little over a week ago I stumbled across an article by Business Insider that was a dead ringer for what I was talking about.  Instagram influencers have mislead tons of people about “the Gates of Heaven” in Bali (The Pura Lempuyang Luhur temple).

How Influencers Misled Millions of their Followers

In my articles linked above I said that social media, and social media influencers in particular, have led people to travel to places just to get that perfect photo to post online.  That includes bloggers, Instagram stars, and regular people that wanna make their Facebook friends jelly. It is a sickness on the rise in our culture and I thought that the Maldives was a perfect example of this, especially in the miles & points world.  But Business Insider showed me that the Gates of Heaven may hold that title.

Popular Instagram influencers have been posting pictures from this beautiful location over and over again.  And the serene beauty found in the pictures has driven regular folks to seek out this location when traveling through Bali.

View this post on Instagram

Gateway to heaven #bali

A post shared by Jen O’Brien (@gohenny_) on

And with a view like that – who wouldn’t want to go there!  Except this is what it really looks like:

Wait a second – where is that pristine lake?  And why are all of these people in line?

That is a line of people waiting to get their photograph taken by a guy with a mirror.  For a few bucks he holds a mirror up to the phone to give the illusion of a pristine lake leading up to the Gates.

Huh? Why would someone do this?  Because a better picture means more shares, likes, followers etc.  Several people have gone to the Gates of Heaven and felt cheated or “catfished” because what they see in reality doesn’t match what they saw online.  People are doing this even though the place has amazing natural beauty as it is! 

Final Thoughts

I am curious if this changes the minds of anyone who didn’t agree with my original articles.  I think there is a whole generation of people that are selecting travel destinations solely based on what will give them the best social media post.  That makes me sad because social media is a fake persona, it is only a small snip of life and the pictures at times can be hugely misleading. Like that picture of the girl hanging over the pool “risking death” when there was another pool right below her that conveniently gets cut off. Chasing the perfect picture for social media has actually lead to many deaths, especially in our national parks.

I hope this is a fad that will run its course soon.  People should be traveling to locations that inspire them, encourage them to grow, to see a new perspective or to simply unwind.  That is what I hope people get out of their travels at least.  Otherwise you are spending a lot of time and money to get the shallowest level of enjoyment.  Heck you could just pay someone a fraction of the cost to take picture of you on a fake private jet!

The question I guess is should I care if travel like this truly makes them happy?  Probably not.  But for the people that get tricked along the way…that is where I have an issue.



Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. The word “influencer” has definitely taken over “foodie” as my most hated word. I’ve been wanting to go to Croatia for a decade (just never made it), but after seeing posts these last few years about how overrun it is with people trying to get their Game of Thrones photos, etc, I elected to skip it and went to Slovenia instead.

    Another fantastic article that sheds light on something that really is starting to ruin travel. I read a similar article, which I can’t find now, about how influencers are bringing popup tents to the Eiffel Tower in order to change clothes for Instagram photoshoots. Sigh.

    • OMG say it isn’t so! This sounds terrible, but in part it’s the democratization of air travel that has made it so unbearable to visit so many places…I’m constantly in search of places no one goes…and I’ve found heaven: South America. For better or worse, most Americans are afraid to go there, so it’s pretty tranquil compared to the European capitals.

  2. Hey. Anyone stupid enough to just take the word of Instagram “influencers” ( god I hate that word) are asking for it. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH!!

  3. Since several internet influencers have been caught faking photos showing them in places they have never been, how soon before we see fake photos of fake people with fake places with fake backgrounds. I’m waiting for influencer, Max Headroom, to start popping up on Instagram. At least he was a real fake, versus a real flake, like most of the influencers on the Internet.

  4. Yep. Like, when we went to Pisa, and had the One Million and One people who stand at the spot so someone can take a snapshot so they “cleverly” look like they are keeping the leaning tower from falling.
    I have been a professional photographer, and, by now. I am so annoyed that I refuse to bring a camera with me.
    Guess it is the result of “Democratization” of travel and destinations, and people who buy into the whole “reality show, influencer” thing that results in eroding and erasing those things we are supposed to admire and cherish.
    Enough ranting.
    Love the post, Mark!

  5. This sort of bs didn’t start with “influencers.” It’s been around for as long as people realized it mattered what angle you photographed a subject from. One way to fact check a photo, whether of an attraction or a hotel/B&B/VRBO is to check it out on Google Earth to see if there’s a garbage dump or major roadway next to it.
    That and to ignore “influencers” as a general rule.

  6. I agree with almost everything you write, Mark! What gets me is when you go to some of these popular destinations and see hoards of people taking like a dozen pictures of THEMSELVES, with 6-7 different varieties of duck lips. I can’t help but be a little disgusted by the blatant narcissism of the social media/wanna-be influencer culture. It seems to be generational to a certain degree. I do often think one of the worst things to happen to society was the proliferation of the smart phone and social media. How often do you go into restaurants and see a table of 6 all looking down and reading on their phones? I think this has even displaced money as the root of all evil.

    • I agree 100% and I find myself doing the same thing at restaurants too and I hate it. Technology has made information easier to get but we also want to be entertained all the time now or in constant contact with everyone. It is a trend that I don’t like but it is something that will always be an issue going forward. I miss the days when people didn’t expect you to respond within minutes and want instant gratification.

      Our communication skills are continuing to go downhill as more technology is introduced or improved.

  7. There is a sign just as you head in through the gate asking people not to strike yoga poses or kiss and yet that is precisely what I saw more than half of the people doing as they had their pictures taken. It made me very sad.
    “Damn your culture as long as I get the shot I want”

  8. All the best places are being loved to death by unenlightened tourism, mostly thanks to the rise of narcissistic social media sites.
    (By the way: lead-led-led; mislead-misled-misled.)

  9. If people are dumb enough to believe everything they see online, they deserve what they get.

    Followers are sheep for a reason.

    Lead. Don’t follow. Be your own person. Pick your own highlights.

  10. I absolutely *love* this post. I love the “lake shot” compared to the “reality shot.” I admit to being jealous of the guy with the mirror and his long line of “fleece-able” tourists. As the sunset photo shows, the view can be beautiful. And he gets to see it every night before going home, after the line of folks waiting for the mirror shot have gone away.

    In a Cap One ad running ths month, an “influencer” couple are pimping a Brooklyn Hotel — the “first hotel we stayed at that we didn’t mind coming back to at the end of the day.” How sad for them. That must be what happens when you’ll only stay in free, influencer rooms. Bookings up, Hoxton? I’m not interested in paying for a room there either. Does that make me an influence?

  11. The main role of influencers is to provide positive reviews of products, services, destinations, etc. They get paid either by receipt of free products and services, or for the lucky “hustlers” – cash. It’s no different from the way advertising agencies have been working for decades. They are just cogs in the marketing budget. However, I do agree that too many of them are so obviously fake and yet they get a lot of followers. The biggest examples of the category are the Kardashians, Oprah, Ellen, etc. but good luck to them – if companies are ok spending their marketing budgets on them and their followers enjoy living their lives vicariously through them I see no harm. I wouldn’t get too hung up over the trend – it’s not going to go away but will morph over a long period into something else as newer technologies supersede Facebook, Instagram and the like.


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