Weathering the Covid-19 storm

Business Today Malaysia spoke to Shahrul Nizar,  Mayor of KidZania on how the business have been coping with the ongoing impact arising from the Covid-19 outbreak and MCO as well as their moving forward strategies.

2019 was the year for KidZania Kuala Lumpur, where the attendance growth had increased by 9 percent from the previous year. A similar growth was only seen in 2016.

Additionally, the edutainment theme park only saw engagement with four partners in 2018, however in the following year, KidZania Kuala Lumpur had signed partnerships with 13 industry partners.

While 2019 proved to be a success story for the theme park, Shahrul Nizar, Mayor of KidZania believes 2020 will pose new challenges of epic proportions due to the ongoing crisis involving the Covid-19 outbreak and the Movement Control Order (MCO).

Credit: KidZania

“We were definitely already anticipating the Movement Control Order,” Shahrul  told Business Today Malaysia, learning from the impact that had come upon KidZania Singapore.

“Looking at the rate of infections and the number of people impacted by the outbreak, we were actually preparing ourselves and we anticipated the MCO to be as long as it is,” Shahrul said.

Credit: KidZania

The general manager of the award winning kids edutainment theme park had already taken a couple measures in order to be prepared ahead of the MCO announcement. While businesses in the city and around the country were already feeling the pressure, Shahrul said his team, specifically his social media team continued to engage with their audiences on several social sites in hopes that Malaysians will continue visiting the theme park once the MCO has been lifted.

“It’s easier said than done but in terms of change of strategy, we are keeping not just our attendees abreast with what we are doing but we are also keeping our industry partners in the loop,” Shahrul said.

KidZania Kuala Lumpur is already well on its way in preparing to implement several changes once the MCO is lifted and these includes offering additional values in cheaper tickets, free events and cross promotions with industry partners.

Credit: KidZania

“I think it’s really important that we engage industry partners as both collaborative and strategic partners,” Shahrul pointed out.

While the pressure is amounting, Shahrul continues to express optimism in weathering the ongoing storm and realises sacrifices has to be made in order to implement further change. The alternative education system is currently looking into practicing social distancing even after the MCO has been lifted and they are prepared to reduce the capacity of the facility.

“This is being practiced currently in KidZania Singapore and we are seeing a fairly positive traction in terms of attendance,” Shahrul told Business Today Malaysia.

The general manager also attributed the market sentiment to his optimism. According to KidZania Kuala Lumpur’s social media team, while the majority will show post-MCO concern, a fair number of community members cannot wait to bring their children out to play.

Shahrul said that the sentiment is available in the market and this assures him of a positive outcome in coming time and the steps taken by KidZania Kuala Lumpur will show future attendees that they are not just a money making business and is very well aware of the responsible needed from their side.

“We have in mind to engage with potential industry partners to create stimulations where kids can soon come in as investors and financial advisors,” Shahrul said.

Outbreak amplifies existing challenges

While KidZania Kuala Lumpur like many businesses in the country face a number of challenges during the present crisis, the industry has a whole have been facing challenges in the form of entertainment tax.

“A lot of players in the country were not happy that theme parks have been categorised under the entertainment category that also included stage performances and cabaret shows,” Shahrul pointed out.

The entertainment tax, amounting to 25 percent of total collection is proving to be a burden to players in the industry and Shahrul highlighted that the industry can definitely make do moving forward the tax.

“These are the taxes that we pass through to our attendees hence deeming our tickets to be expensive,” Shahrul told Business Today Malaysia.

The industry players have submitted their concerns to Putrajaya and are currently waiting for a positive outcome.

Having been in operations close to nine years, Shahrul pointed out that the theme park has also been observing a downward trend in attendance and while they only attract around 7 percent of  international attendees, the outbreak has cost the theme park the international numbers as well.

Final measures

Companies during this period have resorted to salary cuts and retrenchment of employees, but according to Shahrul, his ultimate objective is to ensure the company is afloat and every employee gets to keep their jobs.

However, if pushed to the brink, KidZania Kuala Lumpur is looking at other areas such as paycuts and reducing working hours since there is no demand.

According to Shahrul, everyone has to play an important role in order for companies to survive the challenges posed by Covid-19.  This applies to the government, companies, employees and the public as a whole. Without the ecosystem working together, it would be fruitless.

Shahrul does believe that while 2020 may not see a similar success as 2019, he is hoping to continue signing partnerships with up to 10 industry partners this year and will continue KidZania Kuala Lumpur’s engagements as well as further focus on the theme park’s attendance.

By Poovenraj Kanagaraj

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