The Taipei Rapid Transit Corp (TRTC) is reportedly turning to Hello Kitty to revive the Maokong Gondola’s sagging fortunes.
The 4.3km system in southern Taipei, which runs from the Taipei Zoo MRT station to the Maokong Station, has been operating in the red, having racked up NT$230 million (US$7.69 million) in losses between March 2010 and July last year.
TRTC is reportedly mulling a makeover to boost passenger numbers and reports have said that talks are under way for a link-up with Sanrio, the Japanese company that owns the rights to Hello Kitty.
The company is reportedly considering outfitting each gondola with Hello Kitty images and refurbishing the four stations with Hello Kitty themes by November.
TRTC general manager Tan Gwa-guang (譚國光) would not confirm if there have been talks with Sanrio, saying only that TRTC “is willing to try any marketing promotions that would be helpful for the Maokong Gondola.”
“The time is not ripe to reveal our plans. Maybe it is not Hello Kitty. It could be that we would focus on the baby panda [at the Taipei Zoo],” he said.
Tang said the system carries an average of 8,600 passengers on weekdays and 14,000 per day on weekends and holidays.
“These figures are within the volume range the line was designed for,” he said.
TRTC would not be the first to turn to cartoon characters to boost gondola ridership. The Sun Moon Lake Ropeway at the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village theme park in Nantou County began a promotion in 2011 based on the lead characters in One Piece, one of the most popular Japanese manga.
Huang Jui-chi (黃瑞奇), marketing manager for the theme park, said the ropeway attracted 3 million riders the first year after it was opened in 2009, but the figure dropped to 2 million in the second year.
“By introducing the cartoon- themed gondola cabins, we have managed to slow the decline in passenger numbers,” he added.
A Taipei resident surnamed Huang (黃) said her two daughters have never ridden the Maokong Gondola.
“But if it is redesigned with a Hello Kitty theme, it will be quite enticing for children. I will then consider taking my kids for a ride,” she said.