Annabelle Payet was one of thousands of young hopefuls who entered Tourism Australia’s Working Holiday Visa competition on Facebook earlier this year, in the hopes of winning a four-week working holiday to Australia and a two-week holiday travelling along Queensland’s east coast.
After much pomp and social media fanfare, the winner was announced, but was not able to take the prize so Annabelle - as the competition runner up - stepped up and found herself on a plane to Australia.
“I had been planning to come to Australia and had been working as an Internal Audit Assistant to save money for the trip,” she said. “It was really amazing to get the email and know I had won a plane fare to Australia and the job as a Resort Ranger.”
Kingfisher Bay Resort General Manager, Warwick Kahl, welcomed Annabelle into the resort fold and said he was thrilled to support initiatives like the Tourism Australia-initiated WHV competition – with partners Malaysian Airlines and Tourism Queensland – which he says was an integral part of the resort’s marketing strategy.
“We have been marketing ‘brand Fraser Island’ in France and other European countries for more than twenty years,” he said. “But as competition for the international tourist dollar has increased - not only from other destinations in Australia, but also from other holiday destinations around the world – it’s become increasingly important to seize new channels and opportunities to gain market cut through.”
“Tourism Australia is a market leader when it comes to social media marketing and it was great to partner with them as their sole Queensland operator,” he said. “There is no doubt this promotion has had a positive impact on the Fraser Coast region and we’re pleased to report we’ve had a 17% increase in visitors from France to Fraser Island this year.”
Whilst Annabelle, who is originally from Réunion Island – France’s outermost territory, which sits east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean - admits it was a steep learning curve mastering the ropes as a Kingfisher Bay Ranger, she says she was surprised at the similarities between the flora and fauna on Fraser and her own island home.
“I’ve spent the past 10 years in Paris, but I really wanted a change – I wanted open spaces, fun and nature… and Fraser Island was exactly what I needed,” she said. “When I arrived I couldn’t believe that some of the island’s trees and some of the flowers were exactly the same as on Réunion Island – so I'm not too homesick.”
And while she’s a long way from home and the sub-zero temperatures of Paris in December, Annabelle - who finishes her ‘working holiday’ at the resort just days before December 25 - won’t be enjoying a sub-tropical Christmas this year.
“I’m sad to leave Fraser, but I am headed for Tasmania,” she said. “I’d done a lot of research on blogs and in forums before I came and found that no one talks about Tassie - so I’m off to discover it, then Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road and the Red Centre… and then… who knows!”
You can follow Annabelle’s Australian adventures – past and present - on her blog site.