by Jane Di Leo
To say that being part of the amusement and entertainment industry is in his blood would be an understatement. For Rodrigo Afanador, 52, CEO of Vicca Group, running a company whose purpose is to deliver leisure and fun to others was a path for which he was destined. Twenty-five years ago, Afanador’s father started Vicca Group, a hospitality group that today runs hotels, restaurants, casinos, and entertainment parks, such as Kandu, throughout Colombia.
What has made Afanador so successful, however, is not the fact that he was raised in a family focused on the industry, but rather a pure desire to serve those around him, especially in Colombia, bringing them safe, creative forms of entertainment, and focusing on always providing the best service possible to visitors.
Funworld spoke with Afanador about his life, career, advice, and where he expects the amusement and entertainment industry in Latin America to go.
Did you always know you wanted to follow in your father’s footsteps?“As kids growing up in Latin America, my siblings and I had very limited options of quality entertainment. Attractions such as the circus and ice skating shows made a big impression on us, but they did not visit our town very often. That is why for my family, it is important that we help bring high-quality and educational entertainment (edutainment) options, such as Kandu, to Colombians. This is why I believe that this career is exactly where I was supposed to land. There is always an opportunity to try new things, to learn from the people who visit you, to learn from coworkers. Every day new ideas come up, and there are, in reality, very few things that cannot be achieved.”
What was your first job in the entertainment industry?
Twenty years ago, I landed a job as a shop manager at an arcade. I wanted to learn as much as I could from other businesses and industries so I could go into our family’s business as strong and prepared as possible.
What has been the highlight of your career?
I have achieved several significant goals in my career, but opening our first Kandu in Colombia—and the world—has been the most important.
What has been the biggest surprise to you about your job?
After six years of focusing on being a CEO for a casino business, it surprised me to have so much fun working on launching Kandu. The experience of building the park was an amazing combination of creativity and business analytics, providing a well-rounded professional experience.
What’s in store for Vicca Group in the future?
We are growing as an organization and have a lot of exciting plans in store for the next five years, including opening a new hotel in Bogotá, five Kandu Kafes around Colombia, and four new casinos. As an organization, we are working hard to enhance the experience that our guests have when they visit any of our properties. The next three years will be focused on continuing to improve our people skills and working to provide the most top-of-the-line experience possible for our guests.
How do you think the Latin America portion of the industry is keeping up vs. the rest of the world?
I believe that Latin America is quickly catching up with the industry, especially in countries such as Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile. Our growing economies are allowing families to spend more money on entertainment. Mall development, for an example, is a big thing in most of our countries, which means entertainment within malls is more and more important because in Latin America, people are spending more and more time in malls that offer options to share quality time with family.
What advice do you have for those thinking about going into the industry?
This is a growing industry that has many opportunities worldwide, especially in Latin America, but our consumers have grown very smart during the past few years and require quality entertainment for themselves and their families. You cannot provide a product or park that does not deliver the highest quality possible. You must provide excellence, do your research, observe, understand the culture of the place where you are planning to do business, and be very respectful and careful of the way you choose to do business overseas. Latin America is full of examples of foreign companies that did not succeed because they thought their “magic” formula would work regardless of the environment where they landed. This is not true. Each country has a unique culture, language, dialect. The companies that succeed, and the people who will prosper in the industry, are those who value and respect those differences.
New York City-based freelance writer Jane Di Leo writes for city, regional, and national magazines, including Women’s Health and Delta Sky Magazine. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Perspectives: Rodrigo Afanador
Details Count: Experience-based entertainment requires you to not only see projects as a whole but also all the tiny details, which make the difference on the final outcome.
Do Not Overlook Security: Guests must feel secure so they can fully relax and enjoy the experience, especially within attractions that involve families and children. The more secure visitors feel, the more likely they are to come back.
Empower Your Staff: One of the best investments you can make is to empower your staff. People who are empowered in a positive way provide on-time answers and solutions that build a satisfactory experience for visitors.
Provide Feedback Loops: We want to hear what our guests think, which is why we have built numerous opportunities for communication and feedback. We can only get better if we allow ourselves to hear the objective opinions of our visitors.
Quality Is Key: We believe in creating experiences based on processes that guarantee great quality in every aspect of our business and try to establish standards that exceed our customers’ expectations.