THE 240 local tourism operators that participated in the inaugural Fijian Tourism Expo form the backbone of the country's biggest foreign exchange earner — tourism.
Prime Minister Rear Admiral (Retired) Voreqe Bainimarama said all the local sellers who took part in the expo were important to the government's vision of a new Fiji.
"It is your imagination, commitment, vision and hard work that has led to the fortunes of our economy, on which every Fijian depends," he said.
"So we deeply value your investment and commitment and regard you as vital partners in creating wealth and developing the nation that we all love."
He said the 150 international buyers from 16 countries would play a vital part in marketing Fiji to a global audience.
"We never take anything for granted.
"We never forget that your clients always have a choice of holiday destination.
"So we deeply appreciate the work you do to push them in our direction, to market the unique experience that Fiji offers to people the world over.
"To the Fijian people — our prime product if you like — and without whose welcoming nature, hospitality and openness, Fiji would be just another string of beautiful islands.
"You experienced the richness of our cultures and peoples in the opening ceremony through our youths."
The PM also acknowledged those who worked in the hospitality industry.
"These are the ordinary men and women who serve our international visitors, care for them, shower them with warmth and affection, share with them their diverse experiences and cultures, make them laugh or cry with genuine pleasure and send them home wanting more.
"It is on you that our tourism industry ultimately depends and with it, the economic future and wellbeing of our nation."