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Kidzania Expands into Asia

Kidzania Expands into Asia
November 2, 2010

Mexican children’s amusement park franchisor KidZania is expanding its footprint in Asia.

With eight parks currently operating, KidZania plans to double in size by 2012 with eight new franchises in four continents: America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

The KidZania concept is that of a miniature city where children can learn about the real world through role play, trying out about 70 professions and learning the value of money and work. Jobs are tailored to the customs and cultures of each location.

Owner Xavier Lopez Ancona operates two KidZania parks in Mexico while franchising the business in other locations.

Explaining the expansion, Lopez Ancona states “by 2011 we aim to have new parks operating in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, Santiago, Chile, and by 2012 we expect Kidzania installed in Mumbai, Istanbul, Cairo and Sao Paulo.”

The franchising approach has helped the company expand internationally relying on local partners who understand the local culture.

Growth in Asia has been dramatic, with KidZania Tokyo, the company's most successful franchise, attracting one million visits a year.

Declining birth rates in East Asia is helping the business, Lopez Ancona explaining that, “because of the one-child policy in China, a lot of attention and investment is poured into (the) one child and because KidZania is educational, not only fun but educational, I think Chinese parents are going to be willing to spend some money to take them there.”

He adds, "there are 300 million children in China and somebody has to entertain and educate them."

Lopez Ancona launched KidZania in his native country in 1999 while individual franchises are often backed by corporate sponsors who have a presence in the park. At KidZania Tokyo, one of the most popular sponsors is All Nippon Airways, where children train and pretend to be pilots for half an hour. For the carrier, it's a chance to brand their product to the next generation of customers.

Lopez Ancona adds “companies invest as a marketing tool, to get to the know the kids, their families," Lopez' biggest gamble will be an opening in the USA., the world's biggest entertainment market. He plans to operate the parks with a joint venture and is eyeing big cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

"You have to be where the kids are ... because it's also the largest market, it's also the most sophisticated, most competitive. Children have seen everything."

According to UK magazine The Economist, the biggest risks to the business are security and health concerns, and KidsZania is trying to recover from both in Mexico. Lopez Ancona says the outbreak of swine flu hit customer traffic hard, adding that parents' fears about public safety are now higher than ever as the Mexican Government cracks down on the drug industry.

KidZania Tokyo has had its brush with health concerns too due to an outbreak of influenza last year. However, some 900,000 visitors on average have been pouring into the park every year though since it opened four years ago.



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