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Scuba shop in Billings sends reminders for trips to Mexico



Billings, Montana — This week is many people’s spring break, and according to AAA, international travel is up 30% from the previous year.

Some travelers may be wary of traveling south following recent violence in which four Americans were abducted in the border town of Matamoros, according to the travel firm, which lists Cancun as one of the top vacation spots.

Marc Dean’s mind wanders when he thinks of Mexico.

“Mexico to me is wonderful,” Dean says, “Just like every place, 99.9% of the people are just happy to be there, happy to see you, we’ve had zero problems.”

Dean runs scuba tours all over the world and is the owner and instructor of Family Fun Scuba and Snorkel in Billings.

Even though there is unrest in the north of the country, Dean feels safe traveling to the island near Cancun with a group this weekend and a vacation to Cozumel scheduled for September.

“Sometimes we fly into Cancun, sometimes we fly into Cozumel. It’s kind of like anything in life. If you do the right things, all is good and well,” Dean said.

This year, AAA ranked Mexico City, the Riviera Maya, and Cancun as the top spring break travel destinations for Americans.

Nonetheless, travel-related apprehension is growing, and on Monday the Texas Department of Public Safety issued a warning to Americans not to visit the region during spring break. Four Americans were taken hostage in the border city of Matamoros on March 3, and two of them died as a result. Authorities are of the opinion that cocaine cartel members mistook one of them for another.

“We’re depending on their law enforcement to keep us safe, and sometimes that law enforcement isn’t adequate,” said U.S. Sen. Jon Tester.

Democratic senator from Montana Jon Tester says the kidnapping in Matamoros is a heartbreaking reminder that when Americans travel outside of their country of origin, they are no longer covered by domestic security.

“The truth is, it’s a foreign country, it’s not the United States, it doesn’t matter which foreign country it is, you’re depending upon that country’s government to keep you safe. And sometimes it’s inadequate, as I believe it was with the four Americans that went into Mexico,” Tester said.

Nevertheless, at least in the eyes of the U.S. State Department, not all of Mexico is created equal when it comes to tourism.

The state department advises it is safe to go with heightened caution, situational awareness, the avoidance of undesirable places, and to get out of any unsafe situations promptly to popular spring destinations like Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen.

After the kidnapping, the State Department strongly advises against visiting Matamoros.

According to Dean, common sense is often the best course of action.

“Know where you are, know the common courtesies of where you are, know how you’re going to get around, and there’s going to be no issues—especially if you’re with a guided tour, or you’re with people who know the area really well,” Dean said.

“The bottom line is we have felt nothing but safe the entire time we’ve been there.”