The theme-park industry may seem like an obvious way to benefit from burgeoning wealth across the developing world. Think again. Hong Kong Disneyland has turned an annual profit only three times since it opened in 2005. Ocean Park, its durable cross-town rival, has reported some of the worst results in decades. It is too easy to blame the economic downturn. In China and elsewhere, a recurring hurdle for this hospitality segment is its ability to cater to fast-changing consumer tastes. That means ongoing and outsized capital spending on fresh attractions, not designer merchandise at souvenir stands. Theme-park investors often neglect this point; they prefer to rely on affirming demographics. The tendency to stress volume of consumers, rather than value to those consumers, is an emerging-market hazard.

Learn more at the Nikkei Asian Review.

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