KidZania’s Approach to International Expansion
In May, KidZania, the interactive kids’ city that teaches children about more than 100 careers through interactive role-playing, opened its 27th location in Doha, Qatar. After launching its first location in Mexico City 20 years ago, KidZania has expanded into 21 countries, with plans for development in the United States, Canada, France, and South Africa.
As the company embarked on its international expansion plans with the launch of a facility in Tokyo in 2006, KidZania became mindful and responsive to the differing cultural and social standards in the countries it serves. Designed for children, KidZania is also cognizant not to compromise its goal of offering accurate career-related role-playing to kids.
“Each KidZania facility includes different experiences that are relevant to that particular culture and geography by way of food, entertainment, and professions,” says Carla Alcaraz, KidZania’s public relations and corporate social responsibility global associate. “One of our main objectives is to maintain a realistic, appealing, and uniform brand experience throughout all KidZania cities without losing the local authenticity and cultural features.”
Once KidZania decides to open a location in a new country, Alcaraz says traditions and social standards are taken into consideration early in the development process. The company’s Global Experience Team oversees everything related to content, architecture, and theming, and it works with local teams to develop the role-playing activities children perform.
“We have local business partners in all the territories where we operate,” says Alcaraz. “Those partners are vital because they’ve helped us to have a better understanding of each market. They provide us cultural knowledge of their countries. They’re familiar with the local way of making business, and they collaborate with us to adapt the KidZania concept to their region while providing a uniform brand experience.”
KidZania has mandatory establishments that exist in every location to help children understand the inner workings of a city, like a hospital, fire station, and
bank. However, each location also has specific local activities children can identify as part of their own area.
For example, KidZania Santiago in Chile features a unique mining experience where kids learn how copper is extracted and conduct usability tests on copper samples in a laboratory. KidZania Moscow has an astronaut activity where kids learn about the importance of aerospace in Russia.
Cultural traditions and customs are also noted. “All of our facilities in cities with a strong Muslim tradition have praying rooms, as well as a separate prayer and ablution spaces for men and women, with several telekungs and sejadahs available. We also adapt to local specific dietary requirements. Depending on each region, we offer a variety of vegetarian or vegan menus, kosher meals, and halal foods,” Alcaraz says.
She notes that when KidZania prepared to open its first facility in Saudi Arabia, the local government in Jeddah worked with the company’s global team to find a balance between local traditions and KidZania’s concept. She says the Saudi government was quite interested in making social and cultural change and saw KidZania as a subtle way to promote these changes and encourage the professional inclusion of women. KidZania Jeddah opened in January 2015, and Alcaraz says it’s one of the only public places in Jeddah to feature live music and has a theater. Also, the entire KidZania workforce at the location is women.
Finally, Alcaraz asserts that KidZania makes active use of guest feedback to guide the company with respect to cultural and social standards. “Social listening has become a really effective tool to learn more about our visitors’ preferences, concerns, and recommendations,” she says. “Based on the results, we’ve developed new role-playing activities based on local requests. Also, we’ve used this feedback to develop variable programs as a way to offer seasonal content based on each region, always respecting local customs.”