Niall Gibbons leaves Tourism Ireland and heads for Saudi Arabia

Any Other Business: Promoting smart city on the Red Sea coast part of remit

Niall Gibbons, who finished up as chief executive of Tourism Ireland and made his final appearance before an Oireachtas committee. Photograph: Eric Luke

Niall Gibbons, who finished up as chief executive of Tourism Ireland on Thursday, made his final appearance before an Oireachtas committee this week. Cue much back-slapping and well-wishing at the end of his 14-year term but no mention of his career move.

Gibbons has been hired by Neom Tourism, an agency set up by Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, to promote a new smart city on the Red Sea coast.

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Construction of the metropolis in the desert, which will include a ski resort, threatens to displace some 20,000 al-Huwaitat tribespeople who allege they are being harassed and arrested by Saudi forces when they refuse to move and have urged the United Nations to intervene on the matter.

Gibbons is the second Irish businessman to take up a position in Saudi in the past month. Peter Bellew, the former Ryanair executive, has become chief operating officer of Riyadh Air, Saudi’s new national carrier.