Adventure Advocate | Travel Journalist
In January 2009, Tourism Queensland launched a global search to find a Caretaker of the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef, offering a salary of AUD150,000, rent free luxury island accommodation and the opportunity to discover and report back to a world-wide audience what the region has to offer, both below and above the water. The search for applicants received extensive media and consumer attention resulting in 34,684 potential candidates applying from almost 200 countries - with Ben Southall being the end winner.
Ben is a motivational conference speaker who tells the story how a short list of 50 candidates was chosen from all applications, with the public invited to vote for a wildcard candidate. From the pool of 50 applicants, 15 were shortlisted and they, together with the wildcard candidate who received the highest number of consumer votes online, were flown to the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef in May 2009 for the final interview and selection event.
Over four days the final 16 undertook a series of activities to showcase some of the experiences on offer on the Great Barrier Reef. Following the rigorous selection process, Ben Southall was appointed as Island Caretaker, commencing his role from 1st July 2009 for a six month employment contract. Ben has a very up-beat and engaging keynote presentation around his story both before, and after the win of his life. His keynote presentation covers areas of motivation, goal setting, branding and marketing, the power of social media, strategy and planning, as well as entertainment.
Since July 2009 Ben has travelled by sailing boat, catamaran, ferry, luxury yacht, jet-boat, 4WD, hoby-cat, chopper, seaplane, jet-ski, kayak, train, motorcycle and car, all to explore the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef from Lady Elliot Island on the southern tip of the reef, all the way to the Torres Strait Islands, off Tropical North Queensland.
Ben has hosted media and tourism trade familiarisations to the region and has been invited to make guest appearances at various official tourism events throughout Queensland. In October, Ben was interviewed via skype by Oprah Winfrey! Airing in the US on 22nd of October, and then in another 140 countries around the world.
During his time as Island Caretaker, Ben has fielded more than 300 media interviews from prominent outlets around the world. As of 31st December 2009, Ben had posted 71 blogs to the campaign website, equating to over 84,000 words; 1,800 photos and 52 video diaries. The campaign attracted over AUD$400 million in global publicity for Queensland with over 8.6 million visitors to the campaign website since its launch!
In January 2010 Ben began a new chapter in his role to promote Queensland. He has embarked on a global sales mission as a Queensland Tourism Ambassador, giving the world a first-hand account of his experiences in Queensland. Ben kick-started his duties for the year with a tour across North America and as a special guest at Australia Week’s G’Day USA. Ben continued to visit a number of countries across the world including Japan, Korea, New Zealand, UK, China, Singapore and the Middle East.
Ben now shares his and Tourism Queensland's story on how this amazing adventure came to be and the overwhelming and continuing success of a simple "out of the box" idea.
While continuing to work with Tourism Australia and Tourism Queensland to promote the country and the incredible experiences to be had outdoors with 'achievable adventures', Ben has already completed his own 'next adventure'. In April 2013 Ben completed ‘State 8 Expedition’ where he ran up the tallest mountain in each Australian state in the shortest ever time. A team of three completed the challenge in a world record breaking 8 days. One can only guess what's planned next!
Ben’s family home is in the South of England, providing the perfect backdrop to his sports and adventures and spending time with family. Following Ben’s university degree, in a BSc in Automotive Systems Engineering, Ben took on the world! As a project manager promoting the Champagne Mumm brand at major sporting events and representing the company in South Africa at the Round-The-World Yacht Race, he then travelled throughout Southern Africa stumbling upon an adventure company needing a driver and tour guide.
Following this, Ben returned back to the UK working as a Charity Events Manager and managing a music festival. 2008 was the year of Ben’s ‘Afritrex’ adventure, circumnavigating the entire African continent by 4WD, travelling over 40,000 miles and completing five marathons and climbing five mountains. This project allowed Ben to manage all aspects of the marketing process, website maintenance, blogging, promotion, sponsorship and fundraising which resulted in donating £20,000 to charity.