For the first time in its 65-year history, the Miss World pageant is coming to the United States.
Its destination: The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, just down the river from the nation’s capital, where contestants from 140 countries will compete for a gilded crown, bringing in an estimated $20 million to the local economy.
“This is even better than the Super Bowl,” said Jim Coleman, president and chief executive of the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation, which has been lobbying for the event for nearly a year. “This is a huge win for our county.”
The pageant will culminate in a grand finale at Gaylord National on Sunday, Dec. 18. Pageant organizers say they expect 2 billion viewers worldwide. Last year, 92,000 Americans tuned in to the pageant’s broadcast on the cable channel E!, according to data from Nielsen. (The Superbowl, by comparison, had 111.9 million viewers.)
“It is huge in China and around the world,” said Veronica Jeon, a spokeswoman for the pageant. “The best analogy for this is that Miss World is like the World Cup: It’s popular everywhere else, but not yet in the U.S.”
For a sporting event like the Super Bowl, Coleman said local governments would have had to offer large tax breaks and other concessions to attract athletes and attendees for a one-day event. The pageant required no such incentives, Coleman said, and has a much broader reach.
“We’re talking about five days of nonstop exposure,” said Coleman, who served as a judge at this year’s Miss World America competition at the Gaylord National in July. “How many other events get you that kind of international impact? If we had to pay for this amount of advertising, it would’ve cost us half a billion dollars.”
(For the record, he added: “We would love to get the Super Bowl at FedEx Field. I’m just saying it would cost us.”)
Pageant contestants will begin arriving to the area in late November and will stay for nearly four weeks, according to Jeon. They will begin their journey at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill before heading to the Gaylord National in mid-December for the final week of competitions.
Coleman expects the contestants to contribute between $5 million and $8 million to the county during their stay. (“If we can get them to the Tanger Outlets, that could mean another $1.5 million to $2 million,” he said, referring to the nearby outlet mall.)
Coleman said he is in talks with Miss World organizers to host the pageant at the Gaylord National for another three years.
This is the first time the entire pageant will be held in the United States. A portion of the 1991 competition was moved to Atlanta after scheduled arrangements in the Dominican Republic fell through.
In addition to the usual line-up — the talent show, a fitness assessment and interview rounds — participants will also have to present a charitable project and take part in a multimedia challenge to show “a deep understanding of all forms of media,” including Facebook, Twitter and television news. The pageant nixed its swimsuit competition two years ago.
Miss World, established in 1951, is the longest-standing international beauty pageant. Its largest competitor, Miss Universe, was founded in 1952 and was until last year owned by Donald J. Trump.
Priyanka Chopra, a Bollywood actress currently starring in the TV show “Quantico” is a former winner. Actresses Halle Berry and Lynda Carter, winners of Miss World America, were semi-finalists in the international competition.