IPM editor Martin Palicki interviewed Mark Snell, Chief Experience Officer for KidZania and Cammie Dunnaway, CEO for KidZania United States and head of KidZania’s Global Marketing about the Cuicuilco park and what it means for the company’s aggressive expansion plans.
See more photos of Kidzania Cuicuilco at IPM’s Facebook page.
Mark Snell (MS): It’s really its own animal. The short answer is that it is a role-playing theme park.
IPM: KidZania is not a new concept, but the latest one in Cuicuilco is being referred to as KidZania 2.0. What does that mean?
CD: The Cuicuilco park gives kids even more tools and experiences to be great global citizens. The previous core elements of KidZania are still there, including exploring careers and learning financial literacy. But we’ve now added five key themes:
1) Driving skills
2) Learning about and providing access for people with disabilities
3) Environmental stewardship
4) Health and wellness
5) Civic responsibility
MS: Others have used the term “edutainment” but I like to call it an “Enter-cation” facility because we are really all about the fun first. The content is deep, but it’s presented in a fun way for kids. We are ultimately trying to move kids into action to change the world.
MS: We wanted kids to understand how to be a driver in the most realistic way possible. We have the KidZania Road Safety Institute, where kids are certified, given an eye exam and issued a license to drive. Kids then have to pay insurance and select a car. After enough driving experience, they can upgrade to a commercial vehicle, such as an ice cream truck. They have to go back to the Institute to get a Commercial Drivers License as well as work in an establishment that is related to a commercial vehicle. They also can apply for a D class license if they want to drive a vehicle that carries other passengers. The top level of license they can acquire is an International License, which allows them to drive at other KidZania facilites around the world.
CD: Cars are not required for KidZania. The entire facility can be accessed on foot. Additionally, reckless driving can result in fines and the revocation of a drivers license. We give kids the freedom but also the responsibility.
MS: We use KidBox software to track kids throughout the park. Every child has an active and passive RFID bracelet that they wear throughout their stay. Their parent also gets a wristband. The parent can go to a kiosk and see where their child is at any time. RFID readers at the entrance and completion of every experience continually update everyone’s location. Parents can also send a message to children. The bracelet will flash indicating they need to find an adult who can retrieve the message.
CD: We are starting to incorporate some smart phone technology. We have a loyalty program where kids can get a passport stamped after they complete an activity. We are working to develop an augmented reality program that will make the stamps come to life in the passport book.
MS: The goal is to never do something the child can do at home. So we avoid video game type activities. The closest thing to that we have is the Flight Training Academy. We have kid sized flight simulators constructed to be a kid-sized version of the Airbus A320 cockpit InterJet (a Mexican airline) uses. But that’s really the only screen-intensive activity we offer.
CD: We often turn to our corporate partners to help provide content. We don’t know how to provide a realistic pilot or flight attendant training program, so we turn to InterJet as a partner. We work with Berlitz to put together a language school. These partnerships make the experience feel real. While the partnership model is part of KidZania’s economic plan, we are adamant that the partners are not creating giant commercials for their products.
IPM: How do you price your product?
MS: It’s about $15 for a full day of experiences, and depending on what experiences you choose, you can even make some food to eat for that price.
CD: Once inside, each child is given $50 in KidZos, our own currency. Various experiences cost KidZos, while you can also earn KidZos for work done. We also have a department store that sells redemption-style merchandise for KidZos. Kids receive a bank account and can use paper KidZo money, or we have an ATM KidZo system also. We also pay interest on KidZo savings accounts.
MS: There’s no shortage of things to do to earn or spend KidZos. We have over 120 establishments in the park and each establishment has multiple activities that generally last about 30 minutes. Generally kids can do about 12-15 activities per stay. So there is plenty to do to keep them coming back, and each activity would be noteworthy as something above and beyond a traditional experience in a US children’s museum.
MS: Well all of our establishments are staffed by SuperviZors, who help the kids through the activities and guide their experiences. Parents have their own lounge area where they can relax, watch movies, take advantage of the wifi, or even purchase salon services, eat, etc.
IPM: What are your expansion plans?
CD: Right now we are one of the fastest growing entertainment concepts. It only takes about 18 months to open up a new facility, and we are truly a global brand. We are already well on our way to having dozens of locations around the world and continuing to inspire and empower children through experiences.
Cars for Driving Streets were custom manufactured by:Electra Motorsports1176 Greenfield DriveEl Cajon, CA 92021P: 619-448-0886www.electramotorsports.com
Laser Security Maze for the treasure museum provided by:Funovation
410 S. Sunset, Unit BLongmont, CO 80501+1 303-996-0294
Underground Vortex Tunnel for water aquifer experience provided by:GEP Productions, Inc.2030 Barclay Messerly Rd.
Southington, Ohio 44470
Phone: (330) 392-6527www.gepproductions.com/vortextunnel
Cammie Dunaway joined in October 2010 to serve as CEO for KidZania United States and head of KidZania’s Global Marketing. Cammie previously held worldwide positions at Nintendo of America, Yahoo! and Frito-Lay. Cammie has an MBA from Harvard University and has been the recipient of multiple global marketing awards for her outstanding performance.
Mark Snell is the Chief Experience Officer. He joined KidZania in May, 2011 and oversees and supports the generation of new ideas and concepts that improve the KidZania Experience. He is in charge of content, theming and the national archive. Prior to joining KidZania Mark worked in creative planning, direction and design with Jack Morton Worldwide and also managed and built client relationships and led multidisciplinary creative teams at Jack Rouse Associates.
Fast Facts – KidZania
- Fastest growing global edutainment brand, currently in 9 markets, coming to the US in 2014.
- 13 KidZania parks to open in the US over the following 3 years.
- Largest kid-centric experience for 4-14 year olds where they can explore, create and collaborate.
- Largest role-play experience with environmental stewardship, career exploration and social consciousness activities representing 100 activities and 60 replicas of real-world establishments (bank, hospital, etc.).
- World’s most unique theme park experience, teaching children how to be their best self and great global citizens.
- Largest and most environmentally sustainable children’s entertainment destination in the world.
- Only family vacation destination of its kind in the world, where kids can have fun and learn about environmental and social stewardship, while parents choose to relax in the adjacent parent’s lounge/spa.
- Unmatched range of experiences for kids from career role play, to financial know-how, to fun!
- World’s largest kid-sized eco-vehicle fleet and most authentic vehicle driving, complete with driver training and a license.
- At 150,000 square feet, the largest destination where entertainment and experiences for the differently-abled are located together, making for an even better playing field for learning and joy.
Headquarters: Mexico City, Mexico
Founder: Xavier Lopez Ancona
Visitors: More than 20 million global visitors since opening in 1999, with 500,000 to 1 million visitors annually at each facility.
Open Facilities: Mexico City, Mexico (1999), Monterrey, Mexico (2006), Tokyo, Japan (2007), Jakarta, Indonesia (2007), Osaka, Japan (2009), Lisbon, Portugal (2009), Dubai, United Emirates (2010), Seoul, South Korea (2010), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2012)
In Development: Santiago, Chile (2012), Kuwait City, Kuwait (2012), Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (2012), Bangkok, Thailand (2012), Cairo, Egypt (2013), São Paulo, Brazil (2013), Mumbai, India (2013), Istanbul, Turkey (2013), London, England (2013), United States (2014), Singapore, Singapore (2014), Moscow, Russia (2014)