I wish more of you were here

TOURISM QUEENSLAND hailed it as the "most successful tourism campaign ever", a $2.5 million strategy that returned $390 million in global publicity. But the Best Job in the World campaign has failed to lure foreigners.

Official figures show the number of international holidaymakers travelling to Queensland dropped by 8 per cent in the 2008-09 financial year. The total number of international visitors - which also includes people travelling on business and for other reasons - fell 5 per cent.

The Best Job In The World captured the imagination of a worldwide audience when it was launched in January. The prize was a six-month, $150,00 job as the caretaker of Hamilton Island.

Briton Ben Southall, 34, landed the gig. Last month the campaign received the Australian Marketing Institute's marketing program of the year award, the Queensland Premier's Award for Excellence and a British Campaign Big award.

Tourism Queensland said about 1.45 million international tourists travelled to Queensland in the 12 months to June 30, 2009, a drop of 119,000 from the previous financial year. It said international business travellers to the state dropped by 27,000 to 166,000.

Numbers in other categories increased slightly, resulting in a total fall of 117,000 in international visitors, Tourism Queensland said.

In the Whitsundays, where the campaign was focused, the total number of visitors from other countries dropped by 10,000 to 218,000.

A Tourism Queensland spokeswoman said it had been "a challenging and turbulent 12 months for the tourism industry worldwide", largely because of the global recession.

Tourism Queensland was now working on campaigns to convert "massive interest into real bookings".


On Friday a Californian family, the Defeos, will join Mr Southall for five weeks after 50-year-old mother of two Barbie Defeo won the Best Experience In The World campaign, launched in August. She will act as an "assistant" to Mr Southall by travelling to some of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays that he has not had the time to cover.

Mr Southall, who finishes his tenure at the end of next month, said while it had been a "mind-blowing" experience, the job was not all play.

"It's always a job - there isn't a day it doesn't feel like it," he said last week from Orpheus Island. "But … I'd get bored out of my mind if it was a hammock job."

His day begins about 6am, when he tries to squeeze in some fitness before embarking on an itinerary of travel and research. From 9pm to midnight he updates his blog. "I've woken up a few times with my head on my laptop," he said.

Despite noticing a severe decline in his fitness due to limited personal time, he greatly enjoyed the job.

Mr Southall hoped to continue working with Tourism Queensland next year, beginning with a trip to Japan in January to promote the region. He was also planning to kayak along the Great Barrier Reef.

Tourism Queensland will not list seek applicants for best job in the world next year.