TORONTO, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- The Maid of the Mist Steamboat Co., which has run tour boats at Niagara Falls since the 19th century, lost its exclusive contract Wednesday.
Canada's Niagara Parks Commission said it has given a 30-year lease to the Hornblower Canada Co., a unit of a U.S. firm, The (Toronto) Globe and Mail reported.
Hornblower is expected to take over the tour boat service in spring 2014, the newspaper said. Hornblower's U.S. parent runs boat tours to the Statue of Liberty in New York and Alcatraz in San Francisco.
The Maid of the Mist, which has offered tours since the 1800s, had a monopoly for four decades, The Globe and Mail reported, and there had been criticism about the lack of a competitive bidding process. Eleven firms competed for the lucrative contract this time around.
"I can assure all of Ontarians that this was an absolutely waterproof, 100 percent fair and honest process," commission Chairwoman Janice Thomson said. "No one can have asked for anything that was more thorough."
The QMI Agency reported the new deal will bring in an estimated $500 million in revenue to the Ontario government agency. The Globe and Mail said it is expected to generate more than $300 million more than the previous contract, including a guaranteed minimum of $67 million in the first five years.
"This marks the beginning of a new era for all of us and it continues to build on what the Niagara Parks is all about," Thomson said.