Want to operate a tour boat from the Canadian shores of the lower Niagara River?
Then, the Niagara Parks Commission wants to hear from you and your company.
The parks commission, Friday afternoon, set a Nov. 24 deadline for any company to bid on tour boat operations. The Maid of the Mist Steamboat Co. has been running tour boats from both the U.S. and Canadian shores of the lower Niagara River for generations and while its U.S. pact runs for more than three decades, it’s Canadian lease has been under fire for the past year.
Last year, a 25-year extension between the Maid of the Mist Steamboat Co. and Niagara Parks Commission became a political issue in Southern Ontario as some potential competitors cried foul. The uproar resulted in several commission members resigning and a new regime installed to oversee its operations.
The Maid of the Mist pact was voided, with a promise by the commission to begin a new proposal process. The Maid of the Mist boats have been operating this season under a temporary deal with the parks commission.
On Friday, the Parks Commission issued a formal RFP.
“The process has been and will continue to be open, transparent and fair,” said Fay Booker, Parks Commission chairperson.
The boats leave from leased space, owned by the parks commission, in the lower Niagara Gorge.
“Potential proponents will also be assessed on their ability to meet all mandatory requirements and uphold marine safety standards at all times,” Booker said.
The Ontario RFP process does not impact its U.S. operations from the Niagara State Park Reservation. The Maid of the Mist Steamboat Co. has a deal in place with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation that runs through 2042.
The issue of Maid of the Mist Steamboat’s contract has been lingering in Ontario since early 2008. At least one competitor, Ripley Entertainment expressed a strong interest in taking over the operation. Ripley Entertainment has a strong presence in Niagara Falls, Ont., including operation of several museums along Clifton Hill and the Great Wolf Lodge.
The Maid of the Mist boat rides are among the most popular attractions in Niagara Falls. A Who’s Who of riders have taken the ride through the lower gorge and to the edge of Horseshoe and American Falls. Among its more famous riders include Princess Diana, members of the Rolling Stones and actor Brad Pitt.
The Maid of the Mist boats typically run between April and October.
The boats, in 2009, attracted 2.2 million riders. Given the better weather and less border-crossing issues, that number is expected to increase this year.
The Canadian operations, traditionally account for 75 percent of the Maid of the Mist riders, although this year the split was closer to 65 percent to 35 percent in favor of Canada.
Booker said she hopes to have a new lease in place before the start of the 2011 season.
“Through the lease of this land, the NPC’s objective is to facilitate the offering of a boat tour which will meet the needs of the NPC, while continuing to enhance the visitor experience in this tourism community,” Booker said.
Read more: Niagara Parks opens river boat bidding – Business First of Buffalo
This article was originally published here .