The Maid of the Mist Steamboat has lost the contract to operate the famous tour boats in Niagara Falls that have ferried Canadian and American tourists for more than a century.

The Niagara Parks Commission says it has awarded a 30-year land-lease agreement related to boat tour operations in the Niagara Falls Gorge to Hornblower Canada. 

The new deal is expected to generate over $500 million in revenue for the parks commission over the life of the contract, an increase of more than $300 million from previous contracts.

Ontario's Liberal cabinet ordered the Niagara Parks Commission to open the tour boats to competitive bidding in 2009 after complaints Maid of the Mist was given another 25-year untendered contract.

The boats ferry people from both the Canadian and American sides of the Niagara River to the base of the Horseshoe Falls under separate agreements with New York state and Ontario. 

The first Maid of the Mist boat began operating tours in 1846.

The new service, which will include upgraded passenger facilities and new tour boats, is expect to start operations in the spring of 2014.