A British charity fundraiser was appointed caretaker of a tropical island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef today, beating more than 34,000 applicants for what Tourism Queensland has billed the “best job in the world.” His new job requires Mr Ben Southall to live and report from Hamilton Island, on Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef.
The process gave a global profile to Australian tourism, which has gone into decline amid the worldwide recession.
Mr Southall was chosen from among 16 finalists competing for the A$150,000 (£73,500; $110,000) position.
Mr Southall starts work on July 1.
The phenomenal response to Tourism Queensland’s Best Job in the World
campaign has catapulted global tourism marketing into a whole new realm, CEO
Anthony Hayes has said.
Mr Hayes said Tourism Queensland had known it had been onto a winning idea
with its unique ‘Island Caretaker’ role offering a six month, $AUD150,000 contract
based on Hamilton Island exploring the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef, but in its
wildest dreams had not anticipated that more than 34,000 people would submit
video applications for the job.
“No one has ever done anything like this before and we have been simultaneously
amazed, delighted and challenged by the response,” Mr Hayes said.
“In many ways it has taken on a life of its own spawning special discussion groups,
bulletin boards, blogs and websites with applicants critiquing their competition,
having detailed discussions and swapping ideas and tips.
“Conducting a global online campaign that has relied almost solely on public
relations and social networking has been a major learning experience for us, and
while it has been hugely successful, there have also been a few challenges along
Mr Hayes said during the first weekend of the campaign for example more than
200,000 people from around the world logged onto the www.islandreefjob.com
website, including 25,000 in one hour alone.
“This placed a huge amount of strain on our server capacity and we had to
increase it tenfold virtually overnight,” he said.
“As the closing date for applications drew nearer we anticipated a further huge
spike in traffic to the website and a couple of weeks before closing began advising
people not to leave their submission until the last minute.
“We received and processed more than 7500 applications during the final 48
“This massive amount of traffic understandably slowed the site down and
regretfully some people weren’t able to get their video application in on time.”
Mr Hayes said Tourism Queensland initially looked at closing applications off at
30,000, not really envisaging it would actually reach that number.
“We hit that figure on Saturday evening with around 36 hours still to go until
closing time and after some discussions, decided to waive the cap and keep the
application process open until the cut-off time to give as many people as possible
the opportunity to apply,” he said.
“But when the clock finally ticked over to closing time we had to close it off.
“We pulled out all stops and trained extra staff to help process the 34,684
applications we received.”
Mr Hayes said the processing and assessment phase was extremely strict to
ensure that every applicant had a fair and equal chance and was measured by the
same content management system.
“With such a huge number of applications to process in such as short time frame,
we needed to be rigorous to ensure every application was assessed in the same
way, using the same measures,” he said.
“Unfortunately we have had some very disappointed applicants who went to a lot
of effort but had their applications knocked back because they went over the 60
second limit according to our content management system.
“We encouraged them to re-submit an edited version - and many did - however
there were some who missed out because they could not get back onto the site
before the cut-off time.
“It has been frankly heart-breaking because people have gone to so much trouble
and we have lost some fantastic applications but to be fair to everyone we have to
Mr Hayes said Tourism Queensland had received hundreds of supportive emails
and comments on blogs, websites and online forums.