President of KidZania tells us why his job is all fun and games

Having a good time is all in a day’s work

President of KidZania tells us why his job is all fun and games

The six-year-old and the four-year-old grill Mr Xavier Lopez Ancona, KidZania's president, founder and CEO on his career ambitions, and ask him how often he gets to play in KidZania Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I still want to be the president of KidZania. I love what I do. I love my team and working with children. It's a great job so I don't see myself anywhere. I love being able to help children play and learn. I am where I want to be.

Do you get to play in KidZania whenever you want to?
Yes I do. When I am tired of the office I take my car and go and hang out with the kids at KidZania. I love chatting to them to find out what they like and what they don't like. The most time I spend there is when we are creating new activities based on what children want.

Where do your ideas come from for new activities?
From two places. One from listening to children, who are changing rapidly with as new technology is released and developed. Today because of theses new technologies the jobs that children aspire to are very different to what they were, plus 50 percent of those careers don't even exist yet, nobody knows where technology is going to take us. We know what industries are supporting those roles - coding, robotics, animation, space exploration and artificial intelligence - and so that's what we are concentrating on. We have to keep our eye on all the new trends.

And the other place?
Yes, the second place is being close to operations and to the kids. Four years ago I took two years off travelling the world and visiting all the KidZanias. We have 28 in 21 countries. So I spent one week with each. First I spent some time with the operations guys, then I interviewed everybody, from the senior management to the team members to see what we are doing wrong and what we are doing right and what we could do to be better. I also went to see all the competition. Over two years I saw 360 properties. From there I got the ideas. As a real city KidZania has to change and develop, just like Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

What is your favourite activity at KidZania?
I hate acting myself, but the thing I like best at KidZania is the theatre because when kids really get into it - the perform in front of people and get into it - it's so good for their confidence and such a pleasure to see. The most popular activity in KidZania is the theatre. But myself, I am not good at dancing or singing, I will never be an actor.

Might you add a school to KidZania at any point?
We have schools in some KidZanias, it's funny that you ask that. We do a lot of research with children and we ask them what they want to be when they grow up. In Mexico ten years ago we asked a little girl what she wanted to be and she said a vet. And at the time we didn't have a veterinarian activity so we had to put one in. But we have some small activities for kids who are interested in being a teacher, but the problem is that nobody wants to be a student! So we have an activity for children to be teachers and professors, but in the toddlers area in Jakarta we have a little classroom set-up where the older kids can teach the younger kids.
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