THE Handicraft Centre is like a hidden artery.
Suva Handicraft Market Vendors and Manufacturers Association president Mahendra Singh says that you cannot easily see it, but it plays a vital role for the local tourist industry.
Mr Singh spoke out in response to claims by another vendor that Suva had become a mere stepping stone for the tourists arriving in its port.
He argued that the Suva City Council was doing an excellent job not only for the tourists but also for the local people.
"There are many things happening in the city so it is hurting when a vendor claims it is just a stepping stone," he said.
Mr Singh, who heads the handicraft association that had been registered for the past 54 years, highlighted how the centre was built especially for the vendors, keeping them off the streets.
At that time, the council made a point that no one should be selling on the street and that all handicraft vendors should operate under one set of bylaws, which provide fair conditions for the tourists purchasing the handicraft goods.
He did not deny that over the years, there had been fluctuations regarding the sales of goods from the centre.
But Mr Singh was adamant that this was not a reflection of the vendors themselves or the efforts of the council.
"Our goods are locally made and as far as the centre is concerned, there have never been any complaints regarding its vendors.
"We are not only selling our products, but we are promoting the Fijian culture to the rest of the world."
Indeed, many of the goods on sale in the centre are those used in Fijian ceremonies, made out of indigenous woods and tools.
Mr Singh suggested that tourists should be given more opportunities to look around Suva on their own at the end of their tours and praised the council for the security measures it had taken to make sure they could do so in a calm and hassle-free environment.
He emphasised that the objective of the Handicraft Centre was to see tourists happy with their purchases and eager to come back for more.