Founded back in 1997, KidZania is a children’s entertainment concept that has already entertained over 60 million visitors in 29 locations around the world. Here, RLI speaks with CEO Xavier López Ancona to discuss how the company has developed and changed with the times and what the plans are for the future.

KidZania is an interactive city that is constructed and designed with children aged 1-14 in mind. The concept combines inspiration, fun and learning through realistic role-play. Guests can individually or as a group explore a scaled-down city of over 7,000sq m that offers over 100 exciting careers that they can try.

The concept also supports the learning goals of financial literacy by contributing to children’s understanding of the economic cycle. Each site within the portfolio operates with a proprietary currency, named “kidZo”, which enables participants to learn about monetary management by earning kidZos through employment, which then allows them to acquire goods and services as customers, save their ‘money’ in bank accounts, invest it long term, pay taxes and even give back to the community through donations.

Initially known as La Ciudad de los Niños (translated as “City of Children”), the first KidZania location opened its doors in September 1999 in Santa Fe, Mexico City, exceeding all expectations by attracting nearly 800,000 in its first year. The second facility opened in 2006 in Monterrey, Mexico under its now iconic brand and concept of KidZania, and it hasn’t looked back since.

The company currently has 29 sites which are situated across Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Thailand,Turkey, UAE, UK and the US.There are currently another eleven sites in the pipeline, with locations in Surabaya, Indonesia, Chicago, US and Johannesburg, South Africa all due to open this year, with four more following in each of the next two years.

While the company CEO, Xavier López Ancona admits the last few months have been difficult for everyone given the coronavirus, he explains that the last 12 months have still been good ones for the business.

“After operating for over 20 years in 22 different countries, we felt it was time to introduce the next generation of KidZania, so myself and my team went all around our 29 facilities, and then we went to see all of our competition in around 30 different cities across the world to see what things we were doing well, things we could improve upon and things we needed to think about,” Ancona explains.

“So with all this new information and taking what we’d learnt, on 27 February this year we re-launched the Santa Fe site in Mexico City with a new concept which we call KidZania 4.0.While it was only open for 30 days before closing due to coronavirus, it has shown what the future looks like.”

Highlights at the re-opened site include a new area for 1-4 year olds, and adults can even join in with some of the activities. There are new professions of the future which include virtual reality and even coding along with new options such as being an astronaut, car designer, digital illustrator, structural engineer, IoT engineer, and a robotics engineer. Using KidZania’s 4.0 model, the Santa Fe location aims to stay current and evolve into a concept that adapts to the needs of visitors, offering more exciting experiences than ever before.

With a brand name known worldwide, how does the company develop new activities to stay ahead of its competition? “We conduct a lot of research with children, learning what they want to be when they grow up and what they like and don’t like. We also research what else is out there and what our competition is, so we see how people interact with certain products and of course we read a lot about the trends in not only

the retail industry, but also in education as well,” explains Ancona. When talking about what differentiates the business from its competition, Ancona explains that its key differentiator from places like Family Entertainment Centres and aquariums is that they incorporate education.

“The majority of these places such as theme parks for example, are only about fun, whereas we are about education and fun and this is important to both the children who visit and the parents who bring them. Secondly, I feel that with most other places, repetition sets in quickly, not so with KidZania, we change our programme constantly and we have over 100 professions available to our guests.”

As the interview draws to a close, we ask Ancona what the company’s ethos is and what lies ahead?

“The slogan for KidZania is ‘Get ready for a better world’ and this means that we want children to get ready for a better world that they deserve, because the world that we are currently leaving for our children is not the one that they want. As for the future, we want the business more accessible in small and medium cities and we really want to bring the concept to as many children as possible, with a smaller format and that’s where we are concentrating at the moment and we are trying to open a new concept, which is totally different from KidZania. It is currently under development but the idea is based on combining fun and wellness, incorporating sports and exercise and we hope to launch this next year, watch this space,” Ancona concludes.