Stationmaster cat boosts local economy by ¥1.1 billion
The Wakayama Electric Railway Co. was in serious financial trouble a couple years ago, but their brilliant decision to make a cat named Tama the official stationmaster of Kishi Station has drawn in thousands of visitors from across Japan. The PR move saved the railway, and one expert even claims that Tama the cat’s popularity has boosted the local economy by 1.1 billion yen (about 10 million dollars):
The mascot’s estimated economic impact on the area in a one-year period reached ¥1.1 billion, says professor Katsuhiro Miyamoto of Kansai University Graduate School.
Miyamoto on Friday released an estimate showing that, in the one-year period since January 2007, when Tama first began “working” for the station, the number of passengers on the Kishigawa Line rose by 55,000 and that corresponding freight revenue climbed ¥15 million.
Photo collections and related merchandise featuring Tama grossed ¥27 million, and she is also credited with boosting tourism in nearby Wakayama City.
To mark the announcement of Tama’s amazing economic impact, FTV visited Kishi Station and created a special report about Tama merchandise and tourism:
Tama is shown sleeping in his new office, where he is joined by two helper cats named Miko and Chibi. On the day of the filming, many tourists can bee seen at the station, including a woman who came all the way from Chiba Prefecture to see Tama. The gift shop at Kishi Station is well stocked with various Tama souvenirs, including snacks, photo books, and even a DVD of Tama and his helpers. Some of the tourists who come to see Tama end up staying at onsen hotels in the area, and the owner of one such hotel expresses her happiness at the situation.
Professor Miyamoto believes one of the most impressive things about Tama’s economic impact was its low cost. For the price of a cat-sized stationmaster hat and some cat food, the Wakayama Electric Railway has raked in a huge amount of money.