NEWS that Montego Bay, Jamaica, has been named host city for the 2018 International Sport Kickboxing Association's (ISKA) World Championship has turned heads in the sports tourism market of the Americas.
Jamaica, which hosted the 2014 International Taekwon-Do Federation World Cup at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, created history in Stuttgart, Germany, last month by beating out other exotic locations for the 2018 ISKA World Champs.
Recognising the importance of the island hosting a second major martial arts tournament in four years, Sports Minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange has mandated a meeting with members of the organising committee, headed by Jason McKay, at the earliest possible date.
McKay, pledging to make ISKA Montego Bay 2018 as successful as the 2014 ITF World Cup, said the lure of the Second City was hard to resist.
"It's such a competitive process, many people wouldn't understand how countries trip over themselves to host these events," said McKay, who first tested the waters in 2010 by staging the ISKA-sanctioned World Busta Continental Gold Cup at the National Indoor Sports Centre in St Andrew.
However, the family-vacation factor, which makes the US Open in Disney World, Orlando, Florida, the world's biggest martial arts tournament, was a missing ingredient from the event staged in the Corporate Area.
"Jamaica had major competition as host city, but because Montego Bay 2014 was such a huge success, ISKA, who had observers here, gave us the nod," McKay pointed out.
Citing an example of how tough it is for cities to land elite martial arts world championships, McKay pointed to Rimini, Italy, which hosted the ITF World Championship in 2001.
"It took that city 16 years, 2017, to get another major martial arts tournament, next year's ISKA World Championships," he said. Rimini, the biggest beach resort on the Adriatic Sea, is a favoured Italian seaside holiday destination, offering nine miles of beaches.
"In Jamaica, we have the Montego Bay Convention Centre, first-class hotels, infrastructure to facilitate transportation for tourists, plus the Jamaica Tourist Board has an arm that deals specifically with sports tourism," McKay said, listing Jamaica's attributes.
In terms of personnel, McKay pointed out that the Jamaica Taekwon-Do Association, which organised the 2014 ITF World Cup, "has the internal infrastructure to run any international martial arts tournament".
"We also have, perhaps, pound for pound, some of the best fighters in the world in all the martial arts you can think of - tae kwon do and all forms of karate - which, naturally, make people want to come here to compete," he added.