May 6, 2009— -- It's probably the best job in the world, now that the Australian tourism bureau has finally selected somebody to live on an island and write about life as a beach bum.
The new hire will get to live in a fantastic house on a paradise island in Australia's Great Barrier Reef for six months and get paid $110,000 to do it. The only requirement: write a weekly blog. That's right, weekly, not even daily.
Within the first 48 hours of the contest, the tourism group received more than 7,500 online applications. In the end, 34,000 people applied. Each made a 60-second video resume. They were told to be creative and they were.
Sixteen finalists flew to Australia for the final, "grueling" selection. Let's just say, it involved massages.
The job requirements are quite simple: The ability to speak English and swim.
The contest is part of a publicity stunt to drum up tourism in the area.
Tourism Queensland CEO Anthony Hayes said the idea has helped inject millions of dollars into the industry during a tough period.
"We think we've just ticked over $110 million in international publicity and probably another, hopefully, $20 or $30 million coming this week," Hayes said.
The tourism bureau announced the winner this morning : Ben Southall, a 34-year-old Brit who claims he once kissed a giraffe.
"Well, it's going to be tough; yes, it's going to be horrible learning how to sail, how to dive, to go bush walking," Southall said.
As caretaker, Southall will live at Blue Pearl, "a beautiful three-bedroom home on Hamilton Island featuring stunning views of the Whitsunday Islands, modern facilities and exquisite furnishings."
"I hope I can sell the reef as much as everybody is expecting," Southall told Reuters after he was crowned the winner at a ceremony on Hamilton Island. "My swimming, hopefully, is up to standard."
Southall once worked as a tour guide in Africa, but most recently has worked as a charity fundraiser. In his application video, he expressed a love for adventure, and featured photographs of himself riding an ostrich, running a marathon, scuba diving and kissing a giraffe.
U.S. Finalist Puts on Brave Face
"From the time he was announced in the Top 50, and then the Top 16, Ben has excelled in showing a true passion for Queensland," Queensland Tourism Minister Peter Lawlor said in a statement. "His ideas for how he will make the role his own … plus his initiative and ability to rise to a challenge impressed the selection panel and secured his place in the top job."
There was one American in the final 16, Cali Lewis from Dallas and host and producer of GeekBrief.TV. "The competitive part of me is a little disappointed," Lewis said.
But she's putting a brave face on going home. "My dogs are in Texas, so I'm actually looking forward to it."