Maid Of The Mist

January 30, 2012 by staff 

Maid Of The Mist, Deliberations in Canada over the future of the Maid of the Mist sightseeing boats at Niagara Falls are being closely watched in the United States, where elected and tourism officials want to avoid disruptions to an iconic draw that brings millions of visitors to the Falls each year.

The double-decker boats ferry people from both sides of the Niagara River to the base of the Horseshoe Falls under separate agreements with New York state and Ontario. The tours have run continuously since 1846.

The Niagara Parks Commission, an arm of the Ontario government that controls the land and buildings around the Canadian falls, approved a 25-year contract with the Maid of the Mist Steamship Co. in 2008. But the lack of competition for the deal drew criticism, so the commission called for bids from competing boat tour operators for the first time.

The multimillion-dollar bids are under review; the commission is expected to make its recommendation to Ontario’s tourism minister in February, though at one point it had anticipated choosing a company by the end of last year.

“It’s a very, very complex, detailed process,” said the parks commission’s interim chairwoman, Janice Thomson. “We’re happy that it’s thorough because it’s a decision that’s very important.”

She declined to say how many bids were submitted.

The effect that a change in operations in Canada would have on the tour boat business across the river is unclear. Among concerns is whether a new company would allow the Maid of the Mist to continue to store its boats on the Canadian shore in the off-season. Space is short on the U.S. side.

Sen. Charles Schumer has asked Premier Dalton McGuinty to ensure that the Maid of the Mist continue to have access to the Canadian docks and storage regardless of what happens to the Canadian lease, because it would be impossible to build dry docks on the American side.

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