May 152014

KidZania is one of Mexico’s more unusual multinational corporations. It is a Mexican-owned chain of family entertainment centers, aimed at children aged 4 to 14. Each KidZania location is a child-sized replica of a real city, complete with buildings, paved streets, shops, vehicles and pedestrians. All buildings are scaled to be two-thirds their real-life size.

kidzania-logoChildren enter the city (usually via an airport-like setting) and then engage in role-play jobs in such branded activities as bottling Coca-Cola, serving at a McDonald’s restaurant or working in a Crest-sponsored dentist’s office. Others undertake the roles of firemen, doctors, police officers, journalists and shopkeepers, etc. “Workers” earn kidZos (local currency) to spend on entertainment, at the gift shop, or for premium KidZania activities. Each KidZania offers about 100 role-playing activities in 60 or so distinct establishments.

Between them, KidZania centers attract more than 4 million young visitors a year. This Youtube promotional video – KidZania Global Overview 2013 – provides a good introduction.

Alternatively, the 5-minute video below, from PBS’s American Milestones, describes how KidZania works, with particular emphasis on its claimed educational value:

The Mexican entrepreneur behind KidZania is CEO Xavier López Ancona. The first KidZania (later renamed La Ciudad de los Niños – The City of the Children) opened in September 1999 in Santa Fe Shopping Mall in Mexico City. Two more locations have since opened in Mexico: Monterrey, in northern Mexico, and Cuiculco, in the southern part of the Federal District.

The first KidZania outside Mexico opened as a franchise in Tokyo, Japan, in 2006. Since then KidZania has opened centers in:

  • Jakarta, Indonesia (2007)
  • Koshien, Japan (2009)
  • Lisbon, Portugal (2009)
  • Dubai (2010)
  • Seoul, South Korea (2010)
  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2012)
  • Santiago, Chile (2012)
  • Bangkok, Thailand (2013)
  • Mumbai, India (2013)
  • Kuwait (2013)
  • Cairo, Egypt (2013)
  • Istanbul, Turkey (2014)
  • London, U.K. (2015)

The chain is still expanding, with plans to establish new centers in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; São Paulo, Brazil; Singapore; Moscow, Russia; Manila, Philippines; Doha, Qatar;  and Chicago, USA.

Each park represents an initial investment of between 20 and 30 million dollars. Sponsors of KidZania activities vary by location and include (or have included) American Airlines, Coca Cola, Domino’s Pizza, Kellogg’s, Walmart, Danone, Mitsubishi, Honda, HSBC, Johnson & Johnson, Nestlé and Sony.

KidZania has won several major awards, including one as the World’s Top Family Entertainment Center by IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions).

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