Face to Face: Eddie Kemsley

The chief executive of KidZania talks to George Clode about educational travel and the challenges of being a London attraction

How are you marketing KidZania to school travel planners overseas?
Generally, we work with tour operators who bring school groups into the UK. This also includes agents who specialise in language schools that are looking to visit London over the summer for educational purposes. We also advertise in specialist education media overseas.

Does KidZania promote educational travel?
Yes, all of our activities are designed to have education value. KidZania offers 75,000 square metres of learning and fun to bring the curriculum to life in a purpose-built City, designed exclusively for children.
KidZania’s educational offering is suited to pupils aged between four and 14 years, where they are in charge of their own aspirations and their own learning journey.
KidZania is all about ‘learning by doing’ and represents experiential learning at its very best. Every activity has been developed and supported by qualified teachers and can be cross-referenced to the National Curriculum. The learning extends beyond the school curriculum and pupils will be able to develop a wide range of essential skills and attributes including team work, communication, entrepreneurship, digital literacy, emotional intelligence and global citizenship.

Are tourism and hospitality jobs represented in the City?
Yes, one of our biggest partners is British Airways. Children can take part in two activities. One is a flight attendant where they learn all about the importance of safety and service. They also learn how to communicate important information to everyone on board. Cabin crew also learn how to serve drinks and snacks to their passengers.
Kids can learn how to take to the skies as a cadet at our aviation academy. When in training, they use a state-of-the-art flight simulator – based on an actual A-319 plane. Once they are sat in front of the controls, they learn how to fly and land a place – whilst facing different challenges that a pilot might encounter.

What challenges do you face as a London attraction?
London is one of the most competitive attraction landscapes in the world. There is so much choice for consumers, so it’s a massive challenge to ensure that our brand stands out in a very busy market. London also offers many attractions that are free of charge to enter, so we constantly need to make sure that we are standing out and being recognised as a ‘go to’ attraction for families and school groups.

Have you noticed a fall in visitor numbers since the recent terror attacks?
We noticed a rise in people wanting to re-schedule to a later date in the weeks following the attacks. The biggest section of those was among school bookings. As a teacher, if you are unfamiliar with London and have the responsibility for other people’s children, it can be very daunting.
People who live in London are more resilient and seem absolutely determined not to let those events affect their everyday lives, so it hasn’t affected us hugely within our core family market.

You have just opened the veterinary activity. How do you research what the young visitors want?
Our customer service team is always monitoring feedback from visitors. We’ve also conducted an online survey via social media and it’s been clear that a veterinary activity was the number one choice when it came to opening something new.
We listened. We recently opened a new Pet Wellbeing Centre where kids learn how to keep pets happy and healthy, in partnership with pet food brand Lily’s Kitchen and the veterinary charity PDSA.

What’s next for KidZania?
We have many exciting plans in the pipeline. Like the partnership with Lily’s Kitchen and PDSA, we are always looking for brand partners to come on board and help us deliver amazing real life experiences for our visitors. We’re currently looking for brand partners for our bank, supermarket and the stadium so watch this space.