(Ed note: This is a letter written by Terry MacRae, CEO of Hornblower Cruises and Events, dated March 14, 2014, written to Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster and others. It raises interesting points, not the least of which is that the owner of the largest boat tour company in America promised to pay $100 million more in rent than Glynn will for the Maid of the Mist.)
In our view, the "Niagara Falls" are the "iconic attraction" and people come to the area to see the Falls—not Maid of the Mist. The boat tours simply provide a means for visitors to enjoy those scenic wonders.
(Contrary to Glynn's claims) The Glynns' company has not operated since 1846. We understand their company has been in existence only since 1971 when James Glynn and others bought the assets of a former, similarly named company. The name "Maid of the Mist" has been used by Canada's Niagara Parks Commission since 1885, long before the Glynns began to use it.
…New York unambiguously requires public bidding … and indeed New York Parks has repeatedly confirmed that point in written representations to the Comptroller.
In addition, in 2002, New York Parks stated that the New York side of the Niagara River is unsuitable for boat repair, storage and maintenance facilities and that the Canadian side provides the only feasible access to the base of the Falls. Parks also stated it "would be impossible" for anything to be built on the American side, and it wrote the Comptroller that Maid of the Mist "cannot perform a contract to provide services for [Parks] unless it continues to possess the rights continuously granted by Canada." Why the State has now reached a different conclusion and (allowed) the Glynns to build an unsightly and unnecessary boat storage, repair and maintenance yard on a previously unstable location escapes us.
The State (failed) to comply with its public bidding requirements...
The claim that Hornblower "would not have a similar commitment to the well-being of Western New York" is entirely false. In fact, Hornblower has already become a larger part of the New York economy through its New York City (Statue Of Liberty) concession and sight seeing operations than have the Glynns. Hornblower has become part of the fabric of every community in which it operates. ...
Moreover, it seems to us that we have already made a commitment to Western New York that is considerably beyond anything the Glynns have provided or will ever provide under their new agreement. We have publicly committed that if given the chance to bid we would pay more than $100,000,000 to the State of New York in boat tour revenue above and beyond that which the Glynns would pay under their new agreement. …. How can governments and leaders of the community facing deficits and reductions in significant programs ignore such a level of new funding?
The similar claim that the Glynns are "a lynch pin in the all important tourism industry" is likewise wrong. ...(I)f given the opportunity to operate in Western New York (Hornblower) would soon fulfill and exceed the role now played by the Glynns. In every instance where we have started operations, we rapidly expanded prior operations and ridership, provided more revenue to our governmental partners, and, as a result, also provided more local jobs.
Hornblower is the largest passenger ferry service operator in North America. It operates the National Park Service concession to carry passengers to and from Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, and the similar concession for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Islands in New York. (Hornblower started) service in Niagara Falls Canada in 2014, and (is) operating new boats… designed to provide an enhanced visitor-serving experience and more services than (Glynn provided in Canada or) New York.
Hornblower's guest services and marketing capabilities are unparalleled in the industry.... The National Park Service wrote that Alcatraz Cruises "excels operationally (and) visitor service is conducted at very high levels."
Finally, New York's competitive bidding requirements are designed to ensure that all of the State's taxpayers obtain the best financial results and avoid favoritism. We were successful in obtaining the Canadian concession because a year-long review of the bids concluded we would provide a service superior to that of the Glynns and provide a greater financial return. We are confident that if given the chance to bid in New York, the State would reach the same conclusions.