These Are 8 of the Hottest Trends in International Travel in 2022 

Traveling abroad could continue to present challenges for unvaccinated people. However, fully vaccinated travelers will find many countries far more accessible in the months ahead. The stop-start nature of international travel still presents potential difficulties, emphasizing the necessity to plan for multiple eventualities and purchase comprehensive travel insurance.  

That said, there is cause for cautious optimism among travelers today. With many operators providing fully refundable bookings and free date changes, consumer confidence is rapidly returning. Against that backdrop, from milestone travel to ecotourism, we look at eight popular travel trends emerging in 2022. 

1. Long-Haul Vacations 

General consensus among travel experts is that it will take at least another year or two for global aviation to return to pre-COVID levels. Despite this, long-haul flights are seeing something of a revival.  

With tourism restarting for fully vaccinated visitors to the United States, several airlines have launched new routes to US cities. Examples include Finnair’s flights from Helsinki to Seattle; Lufthansa’s fares from Munich to San Diego, and British Airways’ new routes to Portland, Oregon. 

2. Milestone Travel 

As we navigate the post-pandemic world, experts are noticing distinct changes in the way people vacation these days. Consumers are generally taking fewer, but longer breaks. While short-haul and domestic flights remain an important way of checking in on family or enjoying a minibreak in a new city, travelers are increasingly seeking out travel experiences that have real meaning, fulfilling lifelong dreams, or marking personal milestones. 

3. Responsible Travel 

With a third of global consumers prioritizing responsible travel in 2022, vacationers are seeking innovative new ways of offsetting their carbon footprint. They are also interested in supporting businesses and communities in the countries they visit. A strong trend has emerged for more intimate, immersive adventures. Vacationers now have a prime opportunity to drive positive change in the regions they visit. 

Walking treks and similar experiences are proving popular in 2022, providing vacationers with authentic, up-close experiences as they move from place to place. Meanwhile, sustainable tourism hubs like Costa Rica, Hawaii, and Belize all remain popular choices, while eco-activities like glamping and stargazing are becoming more popular with vacationers. 

4. Family First 

After years of missed birthdays, holidays, weddings, and other important family occasions, consumers are anxious not to miss a moment with their loved ones. 2022 has seen a substantial increase in multi-generational family trips, with searches for accommodation with cribs rising by 65 percent this year according to Hotels.com.  

Parents are also seeking out resorts that offer childcare options, as well as connecting rooms. All-inclusive properties with excellent kids’ clubs and educational programs for children are currently experiencing intense demand. 

5. Personal Development 

With social isolation triggering introspection for many people throughout the pandemic, self-improvement remains a strong theme in 2022. This is characterized by the Great Resignation, with millions of people worldwide quitting their jobs and carving out new, more fulfilling career paths, leading many down the route of entrepreneurship.  

In response, a wide variety of personal development retreats are now available around the world. Examples include Heartbreak Hotel in Norfolk, England, which helps women heal following a relationship breakdown as well as Aerial BVI in the British Virgin Islands, touted as an “incubator for positive transformation.”  

6. Wildlife Tourism 

With increased respect for the fragile interdependence between humankind and nature, greater scrutiny is being applied to wildlife tourism. Travelers are increasingly turning their backs on exploitative animal experiences. Instead, they are favoring adventures that enable them to observe nature in its correct habitat, at a deferential distance, learning more about species and habitats from experienced, eco-conscious guides. 

7. Workations 

With many people still working remotely for at least some of the working week, “workations” have become increasingly popular. One recent survey revealed that 24 percent of respondents could work from anywhere. That percentage rises to a staggering 46 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds. With increasing numbers of people set to combine work and travel in the year ahead, the world is their oyster. 

8. Wellness Retreats 

Evidenced by Google search results, selfcare has become increasingly important to vacationers. How wellness is incorporated into a vacation depends to a great extent on personal taste. Some people prefer checking into high-end resorts and spas, and others favor a no-frills experience at an authentic Himalayan yoga ashram. 

Health and wellness resorts are the perfect antidote to a 24/7, always-on lifestyle. They offer the perfect opportunity to pause and reflect, and to relax both the body and the mind. From taking charge of wellness goals to improving fitness, trying out holistic therapies, or even beating insomnia, there are wellness retreats available for every need, budget, and interest. 

Online Privacy: What Is It and Why Is It Important? 

From media and communication, to research, to politics and governance, the internet has changed the world in a myriad of profound ways. Right now, 5G technology is being rolled out in numerous countries worldwide. This is prompting many experts to question how high-speed connectivity could impact consumers’ online privacy. 

Privacy on the web remains a pertinent issue, and it could become even more of a concern in a world of high-speed connectivity. Many governments have tightening legislation to protect the privacy and personal data of internet users from unwarranted access. Nevertheless, cyberthreats like hacking, phishing, and cyberbullying are on the increase. 

Online privacy is important because it: 

– Protects your identity and ensures confidentiality, shielding your personal data from theft. 

– Keeps you safe from social media data breaches. 

– Defends personal and business reputations. 

– Helps maintain social boundaries. 

– Ensures your freedom of speech and right to express yourself. 

– Limits your exposure to abusive behavior from other internet users.  

-Reduces the power and influence one web user may exert over another. 

Broadly speaking, the term “online privacy” describes the protection of personal information, communications, and browsing footprints of web users. The term refers to the proper handling of data as stipulated by legal regulations that dictate how personal information is collected and shared. 

These laws place restrictions on websites in terms of how they gather and what they do with personal data. The overriding objective of such legislation is to ensure that people visiting websites do not incur a violation of their privacy, or a breach of their right to anonymity. 

Imagine what would happen if data and digital footprints relating to individuals, businesses, and governments were open to public scrutiny? The internet is a double-edged sword, holding the global economy together while simultaneously keeping privacy under lock and key. Biometrics, passwords, and authentication keys make the internet a safer place for us all to enjoy. 

In an internet age, our data is incredibly valuable to companies because it enables marketers to understand and influence us. Despite a general assumption of privacy and data ownership, we actually have very little control over the systems gathering increasing data about our internet activities and real-world lives. 

We have even less control over what they do with that information. Against this backdrop, it is critical for everyone who uses the web to have a rudimentary understanding of internet privacy and the following issues. 

1. Comparison Culture 

Before the internet, we checked in on family and friends in person. Prolific use of social media has caused us to assess our relationships, possessions, and choices against an ever-growing set of standards.  

We read statuses and posts, constantly comparing ourselves to both friends and strangers, measuring ourselves against their purported status and successes. The problem with this is that social media influencers, and even our friends to some extent, project a sanitized version of themselves online that elides over mess, struggle, and dissatisfaction. 

To try to keep pace, we tend to overshare, giving away information about our private lives to gain social currency, effectively fueling our own manipulation. The Cambridge Analytica scandal highlights how information freely released to social networks is used to influence and manipulate web users. 

2. Marketer Tracking 

According to a survey by Adlucent, 71 percent of respondents reported a preference for ads tailored to their shopping habits and personalized interests. Marketers increasingly deploy targeted advertising campaigns as an antidote to “banner blindness,” with most of us having become so accustomed to generic online advertisements we tend to tune them out. 

As we browse the internet, marketers track our activities. They collect information on us that we cannot control. Web users are increasingly coming to demand a more equitable balance between profiling and privacy. According to a report from Statistica, the tides have been turning for some time. Ad-blocking rates increased by approximately 27 percent in 2018, and have continued to rise ever since. 

The simplest thing that web users can do to stop marketer tracking is use ad-blocking, or move away from big tech web browsers like Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, transitioning to privacy-respecting alternatives, like Firefox or Brave. Despite protests from Facebook and other advertisers, Apple has already taken a stand against app tracking in its Safari browser, implementing an opt-in approach to advertising-related ID sharing. 

3. Cybercrime 

Web users need to protect their privacy to shield themselves from identity theft, financial fraud, cyberstalking, spam, and scams. They can achieve this by: 

– Storing as little personal information as possible in online accounts, avoiding sharing credit cards numbers and phone numbers, etc. 

– Regularly scanning their computer for viruses and malware. 

– Keeping operating systems and software updated. 

– Ensuring that all devices are physically secured. 

– Refraining from storing personal data online, or at the very least, protecting it with data encryption. 

Online security breaches can be disruptive and costly for both businesses and individuals. It is vital for web users to protect themselves from attack by paying heed to the personal data they share online, ensuring virus protection software is installed and up to date, and creating strong unique passwords for each account. Businesses can support staff by operating cyber security awareness programs and informing employees of good online privacy practices. 

Travel Focus: Exploring Seven Wonders of the Modern World 

Selected by Hellenic travelers, the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were fabled in art and poetry, leaving the imprint of ancient civilizations on history through human imagination and technical skill. Of the original Seven Wonders, just one remains: The Great Pyramid at Giza. This article looks at seven architectural masterpieces still in existence today, exploring some of the world’s most iconic landmarks and buildings. 

1. Great Wall of China, Huairou District, China 

The Great Wall of China is indisputably one of the world’s most impressive feats of construction, although a great deal of mythology and misinformation surrounds it. Rather than consisting of a single wall, it actually comprises several walls that were joined together over the centuries, each of which was originally built to protect different regions from attack. 

According to local legend, construction of parts of the Great Wall started in the 7th Century BC, although experts say it is unlikely that these early walls survived. Claims that it is visible from the moon are also untrue. Nevertheless, at 5,500 miles long, the Great Wall of China is undoubtedly one of the most impressive structures on Earth. 

2. Colosseum, Rome, Italy 

The ultimate symbol of the mighty Roman Empire, this gargantuan amphitheater hosted bloody, gladiatorial battles for more than four centuries. In its heyday, more than 50,000 spectators would gather here to watch gladiators wage war with ferocious creatures, and each other, at this spectacular venue. 

Beneath the arena’s floor runs an elaborate network of tunnels, where gladiators and beasts paced, waiting for combat. Off limits for more than 2,000 years, these tunnels were opened to visitors in 2021, enabling ordinary members of the public to walk in the footsteps of giants, imagine the roar of the crowd, and envision the brutality and ingenuity of one of the greatest empires in human history. 

3. Taj Mahal, Agra, India 

Built by a Mughal Emperor to commemorate his beloved wife, the Taj Mahal is the jewel in the crown of Indian architecture. With an emphasis on symmetry and balance, this astounding building took 20,000 workers and 16 years to construct. 

According to legend, Emperor Shah had intended to build a second Taj Mahal across the river, constructing the second building from black marble rather than white, but conflict with his sons interrupted his plans. Attracting more than a million tourists each year, the Taj Mahal would cost somewhere in the order of $94 million, and take at least two years to construct today. 

4. Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka 

Nicknamed Lion’s Rock, this ancient palace was hewed into a vast mound of rock in the 5th Century AD. Constructed at the behest of King Kashyapa, the 660-foot-tall fortress still features colossal stone lion paws at the base, between which start the 1,200 steps to the top. 

Originally featuring a vast lion’s head, the palace is open to the public today. Visitors brave enough to tackle the dizzying staircase to the summit of this crowning citadel are treated to glimpses of frescoed caves and breathtaking views from the top. 

5. Machu Picchu, Peru 

Built at an altitude of 2,350 meters, Machu Picchu’s construction still confounds experts today. It is known that no wheels were used to transport rock to the site. Ancient masons created buildings using a technique called “ashlar,” cutting stones to fit flush next to one another. They are aligned so closely it is impossible to fit even a pin between the stones, which could be the reason why the ancient city has endured for so long. 

In ancient times, Machu Picchu was home to a thriving Incan civilization, comprising around 200 buildings in total. At the top of the city was the temple, the rest divided into social housing following a strict caste system, with a royalty area, and a “popular class” district to house the “lower class.” 

6. Parthenon, Athens, Greece 

One of the world’s most famous buildings, construction of the Parthenon started in 447 BC. The main purpose of the structure was to house a huge statue of Athena Parthenos crafted from gold, silver, and ivory. 

The Romans later looted the site, taking the statue to Constantinople, where it was sadly destroyed. In its lifetime, the Parthenon has served as a temple, church, mosque, fortress, and even as a powder magazine. Perched atop a hill looking down on the Greek capital, this iconic landmark attracts visitors from all over the world. 

7. Moai, Easter Island  

Crafted by Polynesian colonizers between 1250 AD and 1500 AD, these ancient monolithic statues are located on one of the world’s most isolated islands. 

Still standing when Europeans arrived in the region, though later cast down during conflicts between clans, the moai represent deceased ancestors, and are regarded as the embodiment of powerful chiefs. Paro, the largest of all moai, stood 10 meters tall, weighing a staggering 75 tons. 

What Are the Lasting Repercussions of COVID-19 on Tourism and Travel?

With countries all over the world closing their borders in short succession, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a collapse in the international travel industry, the likes of which had never been seen before. According to World Tourism Organization data, international arrivals tumbled by 73% globally in 2020, with 1 billion fewer vacationers travelling compared to 2019.  

Prior to the pandemic, travel and tourism were among the most important income-generating sectors in the global economy, accounting for over 320 million jobs worldwide and 10% of global GDP. As COVID-19 spread, massive revenue losses had a devastating impact on tourism-dependent economies, jeopardizing between 100 and 120 million jobs in the sector globally. 

Throughout 2021, this “travel shock” continued, with restrictions in international travel continuing to keep tourists away. Between January and May 2021, tourist arrivals were down by a further 65% compared with the same period in 2020. In early 2022, there’s still substantial uncertainty about the tourism industry’s recovery worldwide, thanks to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.  

Many smaller countries’ economies are heavily dependent on tourism.   

Countries that rely heavily on international tourism tend to be smaller nations, with a GDP in the middle to high-income range. Many are small island economies, such as St. Lucia and Jamaica in the Caribbean, and Samoa and Fiji in the Pacific. Prior to the arrival of Covid-19, revenue from international tourism accounted for around one-quarter of these islands’ GDP, peaking at 50% of GDP in popular vacation destinations like the Maldives and Aruba. 

In addition, several larger economies are heavily reliant on international tourism. In Thailand and the Dominican Republic, tourism accounts for 8% of the GDP. In Croatia, tourism revenues accounted for more than 15% of the nation’s GDP between 2015 and 2019.  

Experts warn that these and other economies that rely heavily on tourism are likely to feel the impact of the pandemic for some time. 

Irwin LaRocque is the Secretary General of the Caribbean Community. His predictions for economic recovery are somewhat pessimistic: he pointed out at a virtual event that he and the rest of the community could not find a way out of the tourism slump they had fallen into, at least not yet. 

Countries the world over are scrambling to lure visitors back while simultaneously trying to avoid new outbreaks. Still, many industry experts share LaRocque’s outlook: they predict that global tourism receipts are unlikely to recover to anywhere near 2019 levels until 2023.  

Tourism can fight poverty.  

All over the world, the pandemic has crystallized the importance of tourism in fighting poverty.  

In sub-Saharan Africa, the development of regional tourism has been a key driver in closing the gap between rich and poor, with tourism-reliant countries increasing their per capita GDP by around 2.4% between 1990 and 2019. This represents a significant increase in growth compared with non-tourism-dependent nations, according to data from the International Monetary Fund. 

Despite the economic impact, there may be an opportunity to “build back better.”  

Nevertheless, while the pandemic had devastating economic consequences for tourism and the countries that depend on it, many cite the crisis as a prime opportunity to retool the entire industry. It’s clear that there’s a real need for governments and private companies to rethink how tourism impacts local communities, natural resources, and ecosystems. For example, some industry experts contend that the slowdown provides an important opportunity to advance the transition to a carbon-neutral, more sustainable model of tourism. 

In a report published in August 2020, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) highlighted the role played by tourism in advancing Sustainable Development Goals, emphasizing the sector’s relationship with cultural and environmental goals.  

The UNWTO report also pointed to the need to reimagine global tourism to promote sustainability and ensure that the economic benefits of tourism are distributed fairly. To that end, the document included a roadmap to help governments rebuild their tourism industries, while placing people and environments at the center.  

The recommendations encompassed five priority areas:  

  1. Managing and mitigating the crisis: Governments and the private sector need to implement coordinated solutions to protect livelihoods and jobs; instill confidence through safety in all tourism operations; and promote inclusive socio-economic recovery. 
  1. Boosting resilience and competitiveness: Governments must support the development of tourism and travel infrastructure and cultivate a supportive business environment for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) operating at the local scale. Domestic and regional tourism should also be promoted.  
  1. Digitizing the tourism ecosystem: Government-funded recovery packages can include provisions to maximize the use of technology in the tourism industry, encourage people to create new technology solutions, and promote digital skills training in the tourism workforce. 
  1. Fostering sustainability: The tourism industry must take steps to become carbon-neutral in order to align with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Government investments in the tourism industry should foster sustainability—for example, through the creation of new protected areas, investments in green energy, and by requiring companies to give up unsustainable practices if they accept government financial aid. 
  1. Forming partnerships: To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, cooperation will be a must. Recovery plans should include governments, development partners, and international finance institutions working together.    

7 Types of Cybersecurity Threats to Watch Out for in 2022

Throughout 2021, cybercriminals found new ways to infiltrate the data systems of telecommunications companies, medical networks, and even law enforcement agencies. 

Times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, provide the perfect environment for unscrupulous individuals who wish to take advantage of disorder and upheaval for financial gain. The healthcare sector has been particularly vulnerable, costing providers more than $20 billion in ransoms, lost revenue, and lawsuits in 2020 alone. That same year, 600 clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare providers were targeted in 92 ransomware attacks. 

Similarly, 2021 saw several high-profile attacks on organizations around the world, with just six ransomware groups responsible for a staggering 292 attacks against organizations, accumulating more than $45 million in ransom money. In late April 2021, a breach of the Colonial Pipeline disrupted gas supplies across the American East Coast, creating panic and chaos. 

As 2021 draws to a close, experts share seven rising cybersecurity threats predicted to soar in popularity among criminal groups in the year to come. 

  1. Increased Implementation of AI 

AI plays a rapidly evolving role in virtually every aspect of our daily lives. Machine learning has paved the way for impressive advancements in cybersecurity, while AI has been integral to building automated security systems, as well as face detection, natural language processing, and automatic threat detection. 

Just as cybersecurity companies use AI to enhance their products and services, cybercriminals use it to help them develop increasingly sophisticated attacks. AI has been used by hackers to develop smart malware and attacks capable of bypassing the latest security protocols.  

  1. Mobile Hacking 

Research indicates that 2019 saw a 50 percent increase in mobile malware and hacking attacks. Mobile malware may not have reached the same scale as traditional desktop malware, but it is on the rise, particularly on the Android platform. 

Mobile devices are particularly enticing for state-sponsored cyber teams due to device capabilities and the information stored on them. When information about threats is leaked, like the recent Stuxnet computer worm, cybercriminals learn how to emulate the cyber teams’ techniques and formulate more and more sophisticated attacks. 

3. Teleworking Attacks 

As working from home becomes the new norm for many businesses worldwide, the surge in employees working remotely has created considerable opportunities for hackers. Remote desktop software such as Netop, TeamViewer, and Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol have all revealed major security vulnerabilities in testing. 

Brute-force attacks, where hackers guess remote account passwords, are on the rise. Cybercriminals are also employing tactics such as phishing and similar scams, targeting business email accounts. 

According to the FBI, these sorts of scams caused more than $1.8 billion in business losses in 2020 alone. The onus is on employers to ensure they arm remote workers with effective cybersecurity protection as well as the training they need to identify and deal with cyber threats. 

  1. IoT Vulnerabilities 

In an era with increasingly more devices connecting to the Internet, router security is all-important. In 2019 3 out of 4 IoT attacks occurred via infected routers. 

IoT devices are inherently vulnerable to attack. Every new device you add to your home or work network increases risk. From smart appliances you control with your mobile phone to baby monitors, almost no device is safe from hijacking and DoS attacks. The key to protecting your home or workspace from hackers lies in encrypting your Internet connection and masking your IP address to deter this type of attack. 

5. Weaponizing Deepfake Technology 

A portmanteau of “deep learning” and “fake,” deepfakes are synthetic media in which an existing video or image is replaced with someone else’s likeness. Leveraging powerful AI and machine learning techniques, deepfake technology generates or manipulates visual or audio content with the ultimate objective of deceiving the viewer. 

Cybersecurity specialists predict that cybercriminals will increasingly rely on this technique to manipulate stock prices, steal money, and influence people’s opinions via social media. 

  1. Social Engineering Threats 

Not all data breaches, leaks, and corporate hacks are perpetrated by sophisticated hackers using advanced technical approaches. In fact, many arise as the result of simple social engineering threats. Cybercriminals manipulate their victim’s trust to gain access to information, using human psychology rather than technological know-how to achieve their goals. 

7. Automotive Hacking 

Modern cars come with a plethora of automated software seamlessly linked by Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology, which, unfortunately, renders them vulnerable to hacking. Experts predict that instances of criminals gaining control of vehicles through hacking will rise in years to come as the use of automated vehicles increases. To avoid this scenario, lawmakers are calling for increasingly stringent cybersecurity measures. 

7 Unforgettable Experiences No Visitor to Vietnam Should Miss

With its awe-inspiring landscapes, expansive history, and fantastic food, Vietnam attracts tourists from all over the world. In this article, we explore seven unique Vietnamese experiences no visitor should miss.

1. Sample the street food.

Famed the world over for its fragrant herbs and spices, Vietnamese street food tempts the senses with an array of exciting aromas and flavors. Regardless of the time of day, you will see locals of all ages gathering outside store fronts or beneath market awnings. Vendors offer pork belly patties, savory sticky rice, egg coffee desserts, and, of course, pho, the staple salty broth made with chicken or beef, fresh herbs, and silky rice noodles.

Some of the cheapest and best places to eat in Vietnam are found in the traditional open-air markets. There, single-dish stalls, run mostly by women, peddle delicious dishes of home-cooked fare following secret family recipes that have been handed down from mother to daughter over generations.

2. Learn more about Vietnamese history.

The history of Vietnam is tumultuous and complex, the Southeast Asian country having been invaded and riven numerous times. Today, a strong colonial influence remains, visible in everything from the coffee and food to the architecture.

Interwoven with our own past, Vietnamese history is not only fascinating, but important to learn about. Numerous monuments and museums in the country today are dedicated to the Vietnam War. More than 60 percent of the population of Vietnam was born after the war ended in 1975. Today, the country may have moved on, but the sacrifices made on both sides are still commemorated across the nation, particularly in Ho Chi Minh City.

3. Explore the world’s largest cave.

Situated in Quang Binh province, a region of barely penetrable jungle near the border with Laos, Phong Nha National Park is riddled with hundreds of vast caverns, including the world’s largest cave, Hang Son Doon, an underground expanse so tall a skyscraper could fit inside.

Phong Nha is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts cavers from all over the world. With local guides for hire and rental gear available, you can find everything you need to explore this underground marvel. 

Alternatively, for those who prefer to stay aboveground, the region is also famous for trekking. The surrounding jungle is dotted with imposing waterfalls, and monkeys and flying foxes are frequently spotted in the vicinity.

4. Visit Cai Rang Floating Market.

Located in the south of the country, this world-renowned floating market is staged on the Cai Rang River, 6 kilometers from the center of Can Tho. In days gone by, when travelling by road was still a major challenge, Cai Rang Floating Market played a critical role in meeting the needs of local people. 

Nowadays, Vietnam’s road traffic infrastructure is much more developed. However, the floating market lives on, serving as an important economic, cultural, and tourist center.

Cai Rang is a great place to sample the local fare, its floating restaurants presided over by chefs with 40+ years’ experience, ready and waiting to serve delicious dishes like hu tieu and banh mi to locals and visitors.

5. Visit a traditional village.

Today, Vietnam is world-famous for its picture-perfect beaches and lively nightlife. By venturing to the northwest, however, visitors can get a taste of a much less touristy part of the country and sample authentic village life.

Sapa is home to several Vietnamese ethnic minorities, including the Dzao, Jarai, Bahnar, and Hmong. Each of these peoples has its own language and signature clothing, as well as its own customs and traditions. In Sapa, families live in stilted houses in differing architectural styles according to their ethnicity. They provide visitors with a tantalizing taste of their culture through traditional poetry, music, and song.

6. Immerse yourself in nature at Ban Gioc Waterfall.

Situated 360 kilometers from Hanoi in Northeast Vietnam, Ban Gioc Waterfall is without doubt the most spectacular waterfall in all of Vietnam, if not the whole of Southeast Asia. It stands 30 meters high and 300 meters wide and sits on the border between Vietnam and China. The waterfall is fed by the Quay Son River and empties via numerous rivulets across multiple terraces, creating an unforgettably enchanting vista.

Although domestic and Chinese travelers are regular visitors, particularly on national holidays, the waterfall is largely untouched by international tourism. Foreign travelers rarely venture this far from the beaten track.

7. Cruise the Mekong Delta

The Mekong River starts in China, flowing through Laos and Cambodia, traversing Vietnam’s southernmost reaches, and emptying into the South China Sea. The Mekong Delta’s tributaries and rivers form a tropical maze through rice farms and towns. 

From cruise boats, visitors look out across an expanse of lush green rice fields dotted with stilted wooden houses. Local men and women sell produce from small boats, providing snapshots of the traditional Vietnamese way of life.

The Mekong Delta is home to a myriad of rare and exotic wildlife, the Mekong River itself holding three times more fish species than the mighty Amazon. Popular with ornithologists, this region of Vietnam is home to more than 1,000 bird species.

5 of the Best Vacation Destinations for Cultural Tourism

For some people, the notion of the perfect vacation is simply two weeks in the sun, doing absolutely nothing. Others see a vacation as a prime opportunity to immerse themselves in a new culture and experience a different way of life.

“Culture” is a broad concept, of course—it refers to the customs, language, cuisine, art, and shared history of a particular group. In addition, culture is everywhere; there’s nowhere you can go that doesn’t have a culture. Still, in some places, the culture just seems more tangible and alive. Here are a few of these destinations.

1.         Paro, Bhutan

Bhutan is a landlocked kingdom sitting atop the mighty Himalayan range, which renders it accessible only to a fortunate few. Combining colorful religious festivals with spectacular natural surroundings, this land of fluttering prayer flags, red-robed monks, and vast monasteries perched on cliffs harks back to a long-forgotten era, and a much slower, calmer pace of life.

The Paro valley stretches from the confluence of the Wang Chhu and Paro Chhu rivers at Chuzom, to Mount Jomolhari on the Tibetan border. One of the widest valleys in Bhutan, Paro is swathed in fertile rice fields, with elegant traditional houses dotting the valley and surrounding hillsides. The idyllic scene is dissected by a crystalline, meandering river.

Paro town’s central plaza is adorned with a small amphitheater that hosts events throughout the year. With more than 155 monasteries and temples in the region, some dating back to the 14th century, Paro is an excellent place to see Bhutan’s history.

The region is also home to one of the country’s most iconic sites. High above the oak and rhododendron forests perches Taktsang Monastery. Known as the Tiger’s Nest, this extraordinary temple is a sacred shrine dedicated to Padmasambhava, who brought Buddhism to Tibet. 

2.         Tikal, Guatemala

Many regard Tikal as the world’s most impressive Mayan site, despite the fact that just a small proportion has been excavated from the thick jungle that surrounds it. Comprising some 3,000 ancient buildings, including a palace, dwellings, tombs, altars, and an impressive nine-story pyramid, Tikal once formed the heart of the Mayan Empire. Today it sits in its own national park, having been assigned UNESCO World Heritage Site status. In its heyday, the site is believed to have been home to almost 100,000 people, making it one of the most important cities of its time.

The Mayans performed ritual human sacrifices at Tikal. This archaeological wonder was also used for farming as far back as 1000 BC. No one knows for sure what caused the city’s demise, but many researchers attribute its abandonment to deforestation and drought.

3.         Bilbao, Spain

From the early 1900s, Bilbao was one of the most important cities in Basque Country. Despite its cultural development and expansion being interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, the city quickly recovered its capacity to generate wealth, attracting immigrants from far and wide with its flourishing industry.

Following years of economic growth, the region’s steel and iron industry fell into a deep crisis toward the end of the 20th century. City officials were forced to reimagine the foundations of its economic development.

After years of financial uncertainty, Bilbao reclaimed its reputation as one of Europe’s most dynamic cities. It is brimming with amenities and focused on urban and environmental regeneration. Today, it is home to the Euskalduna Palace and Guggenheim Museum, the latter being one of the most iconic and praised works of contemporary architecture. These buildings have become icons of this vibrant metropolis.

4.         Florence, Italy

Florence is the most enchanting city in Tuscany, if not the whole of Italy or Europe. Internationally renowned as the birthplace of the Renaissance, it is home to the world-famous Uffizi Gallery, which houses works by both Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. If you have the means, you should visit Florence at least once in your life.

Other unmissable attractions include the Ponte Vecchio, Piazza del Duomo, and Boboli Gardens. Although it is a city, Florence retains a small-town charm and a slower, calmer pace of life. The city center is flooded with pedestrians rather than cars, idly strolling or sitting in piazzas, watching the world go by.

5.         Abu Dhabi, UAE

The United Arab Emirates consists of seven emirates in total, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the two that most Westerners are familiar with. Both are modern, cosmopolitan cities, but Dubai is flashier and fast-paced, while Abu Dhabi is often described as a bit lower-key and more representative of traditional culture in the UAE.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque is the largest mosque in the whole of the UAE. Both a place of worship and an icon of Islamic culture, it is widely praised as Abu Dhabi’s most beautiful building. Covering almost 30 acres and capable of accommodating more than 40,000 people, Sheikh Zayed Mosque is also one of the largest places of worship in the world. The construction took more than a decade to complete and combines traditional and modern architecture.

Cybersecurity: How Can Businesses Protect Themselves from Ransomware?

Ransomware is becoming an increasingly significant threat to businesses all over the world. Companies face a constant barrage of cyberthreats, from brute force attacks to phishing campaigns. Ransomware strikes a special kind of fear into the hearts of business owners, leaving them vulnerable on a variety of different levels, from the financial repercussions of losing critical data, to reputational damage and loss of trust among customers.

Ransomware can affect any type of organization, large or small, with cybercriminals executing sophisticated techniques to target not only businesses, but government agencies, nonprofit entities, and, astonishingly, educational facilities and even hospitals and healthcare providers.

An attack typically begins with an assailant gaining access to an internal computer network via a phishing email or other type of compromise. Cybercriminals analyze internal systems to deduce assets and vulnerabilities. They then mount an attack, infecting and encrypting files, rendering them inaccessible by the victim.

Revealing compromised data

Finally, cybercriminals reach out to the victim, blackmailing them, demanding payment of a fee for release of the data. Nevertheless, even if payment is promptly made, the threat to the organization does not stop there. The hacker may simply fail to make good on their assurances or, increasingly, punish and humiliate the victim by publicly revealing compromised data.

According to cybersecurity analyst Mohsin Khan Mahadik, it is incredibly difficult to assess how widespread a problem ransomware really is, since many incidents go unreported, with victimized organizations reluctant to go public for fear of losing business. In many cases, victims pay off their attackers without reporting the incident. According to data from Statista, there were 187.9 million attacks in 2019 alone, although experts believe the figure could actually be much higher.

In 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attack targeted computers all over the world using Microsoft Windows. Cybercriminals encrypted data, demanding payment in Bitcoin for release. The incident involved more than 200,000 victims worldwide, infecting over 300,000 computers. Believed to have originated in North Korea, with the Lazarus Group the prime suspects, attackers infected computers in more than 150 countries, culminating in global economic losses estimated at $4 billion.

Cybercriminals are growing increasingly sophisticated

As cybercriminals grow increasingly sophisticated, the problem is becoming more difficult to prevent. For companies that fall prey to these monetized cyberattacks, the impact can be devastating, literally paralyzing business operations. It is therefore vital for business leaders to be savvy about preventing and defending against such attacks, recognizing that all businesses are vulnerable.

With 15 years’ experience in cybersecurity at a Fortune 100 company, Tim Bandos is Digital Guardian’s director of cybersecurity. He explains that every week, a barrage of new ransomware attacks hit the headlines, targeting businesses, organizations, and even hospitals and demanding that they pay a ransom to regain access to their data. As he points out, a victim’s first question is often “Could we have prevented this?” Bandos says there are multiple steps enterprises can take to protect themselves against malware, explaining that a layered approach is always the most appropriate.

Bandos advocates for installing anti-virus software across all endpoints within a business, ensuring that it is kept up to date. Although new variants are constantly being developed, anti-virus software is an important line of defense. He recommends using a multi-faceted cybersecurity solution armed with additional protective technologies, such as firewalls, heuristics, and behavioral-based threat protection.

Implementing security awareness campaigns

The second step is to implement security awareness campaigns among staff, ensuring that employees know the dangers of clicking on links in emails. Regularly backing up data, be it to a local storage device or to a cloud provider, can protect against data loss, but it is vital to remove the external storage device once the backup is complete to avoid ransomware infecting that, too.

GPO restrictions can be used to prevent ransomware and other forms of malware from installing. Patching third party software such as Flash, Adobe, and Java—all common access points for cyber criminals—undoubtedly prevents many attacks. Finally, restricting the administrative rights of endpoint users can also be incredibly effective in terms of reducing vulnerabilities.

With Covid-19 triggering a global transition to remote work, many employees continue to stay connected from their home offices. It is critical for IT departments to cover all the bases, fortifying the entire network. Periodically conducting phishing tests can help identify areas where further training is needed. It is also vital for systems to require strong passwords and multifactor authentication when users log on to the business network.

Countering ransomware attacks

In the United States today, government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security are focusing heavily on countering ransomware attacks. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has developed a useful Ransomware Guide, helping business owners to develop an action plan to mitigate risk and respond to incidents. Ransomware creates a national security risk and economic threat, targeting enterprises of all sizes. As the Department of Homeland Security continues to prioritize anti-ransomware initiatives, it is vital that businesses of all sizes play a part in countering this multibillion-dollar problem, educating and informing staff at all levels of an organization to protect them from attacks.

The Magic of Laos: 5 Unmissable Attractions

Laos is a culturally diverse country, incorporating 49 ethnic groups that influence its customs, culture, cuisine, and arts. Often overshadowed by its more widely known neighbors Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand, this tranquil, landlocked country has plenty to offer visitors besides the benefit of fewer crowds.

Encompassing undulating mountains, thundering waterfalls, remote villages, and underground caves, this exciting Southeast Asian country has a “back-in-time” feel. From the mysterious Plain of Jars to the gilded Pha That Luang national monument, we explore five of the country’s most impressive attractions.

1.   Vat Phou                                                                         

A little way off the beaten track, this complex of temple ruins set against a magical mountainous backdrop is a must-see.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site was a seat of power for the Khmer Empire from the 10th to the 14th centuries. The site also bears testimony to several other Southeast Asian cultures that occupied the region through the centuries. Shaped to express the Hindu vision of the relationship between humanity and nature, Vat Phou lies on the banks of the Mekong River, with parts of the development dating back as far as the fifth century.  

Dedicated to Shiva, the site was adopted by Buddhist monks in the 13th century, and Buddhists continuing to worship there to this day. During the Vat Phou festival, which is held yearly on the full moon of the third lunar month, thousands of nationals flock to the temple to bring offerings for Buddha. The ancient temple complex bursts with food and drink stalls, along with presentations of traditional Laos dance, musical performances, games, and other entertainment.

2.   Plain of Jars

Located in the Xiangkhoang Plateau, the Plain of Jars comprises thousands of carved granite and sandstone jars. The attraction encompasses more than 90 separate sites, each featuring between one and 400 jars, some more than 2,000 years old, with the tallest jar standing around 3.4 meters high.

A mystery to archeologists and locals alike, the Plain of Jars dates to the Iron Age. Some locals theorize that the structures may have been used to collect rainwater or brew and store rice wine.

Situated on a plain in the Lao Highlands, the jars lie in ruins today. They received relatively little Western attention until the French archeologist Madeleine Colani surveyed the area in the 1930s. After discovering human remains, including burned bones and ash in a nearby cave, Colani suggested that the jars were funeral urns for local chieftains, although many historians dispute this claim. Bizarrely, similar clusters of jars have been found across Asia, forging a path that leads to Northern India, causing some researchers to believe that the site formed part of a wider trade route.

3.   Pha That Luang

Also known as the Great Stupa, Pha That Luang is the most important national monument in the country. Located in the country’s capital, Vientiane, the site dates to the third century. It has been reconstructed several times over the years after enduring foreign invasions. The existing complex comprises three levels symbolizing the three realms of Buddhism, and the temple is surrounded by 30 smaller stupas.

According to an account dating back to the 1600s from Dutch envoy Gerrit van Wuysthoff, the monument originally featured an enormous pyramid covered in around a thousand pounds of gold leaf. The site was repeatedly plundered by the Chinese, Siamese, and Burmese over the years, with the Thai invasion of 1828 reducing it to ruins. It was not until the French arrived in 1900 that Pha That Luang was restored to its original design.

4.   Bokeo Nature Reserve

Created to protect the black-cheeked gibbon, a species believed to be extinct until it was rediscovered in the region in 1997, Bokeo Nature Reserve is home to the Gibbon Experience, a world-leading eco-tourism conservation project where guests stay in tree houses, travel by zip line, and search the tree canopy for the elusive ape.

Having earned an international reputation as a “hidden paradise” of Laos, Bokeo Nature Reserve is in the northwest of the country, comprising 123,000 hectares of primary rainforest. Other wildlife sometimes observed in the reserve include bears, elephants, wild buffalo, tigers, and chimpanzees.

The Gibbon Experience operates local tours, creating jobs for local people and supporting indigenous people in developing sustainable agriculture. At the same time, it establishes a model of eco-tourism to protect, preserve, and explore this unique ecosystem.

5.   That Ing Hang Stupa

Standing 9 meters tall, this 16th-century tower is believed to contain an important Buddhist relic: a bone taken from Buddha’s spine. Buddha is believed to have stayed here after falling ill on his journey to the Kingdom of Sikhottabong. Substantially rebuilt during the reign of King Setthathirat in the 1500s, That Ing Hang was restored by the French in 1930.

The temple features a hollow section containing a collection of Buddhist images that, in line with religious customs, women are forbidden from entering. There is also a Buddhist repository containing 4,000 palm leaf manuscripts, considered one of the most important collections of Buddhist scriptures in Laos today. Its oldest components date to the 16th century.

Hidden Gems of India: Exploring the Country’s Lesser-Known Attractions

As the home of the iconic Taj Mahal, the Red Fort of New Delhi, Agra Fort, and the fantastically elaborate Mysore Palace, India is a land of contrasts, where traditional and modern worlds collide. In this article, we venture off the beaten track, exploring some of the country’s lesser-known, but no less impressive attractions.

1. Ziro – Arunachal Pradesh

A nirvana for tourists beating a retreat from the stresses of daily life, tucked away in the picturesque mountain-scape of northeast India, the Ziro Valley’s sprawling paddy fields, lush green hills, and quaint villages mesmerize visitors with its scenic beauty.

Popular with photographers, bird spotters, and nature lovers, Ziro is perfect for adventure seekers, too, presenting the unique opportunity to trek through the jungles of this relatively unexplored region of Arunachal Pradesh.

Every September, top national and international musical performers and folk artists arrive in Ziro for its annual music festival, presenting overseas visitors with an unforgettable taste of Indian culture, enjoying enchanting music and sampling regional culinary delights.

2. Gurez Valley – Kashmir

With its cool mountain air, bubbling river, and breathtaking landscapes, the Gurez Valley lies on the ancient Silk Road. In 1865, the British author Sir Walter Lawrence described it as one of the most beautiful scenes in all of Kashmir, where the waters of the Kishenganga River are surrounded by “mountain scarps of indescribable grandeur.”

Precariously crooked wooden villages dot the Gurez Valley landscape, its hillsides awash with vivid swathes of wildflowers. In the distance loom snowy peaks, with waterfalls tumbling down the mountainside, quenching the emerald grasses of the valley, while women wash colorful rugs at the side of the river.

The army delivers essential assistance and supplies in emergencies and throughout the long, hard winter.

3. Unakoti – Tripura

Tripura is the third smallest state in India, and one of the nation’s least explored travel destinations. Nevertheless, it is rapidly garnering an international reputation as a hidden jewel of Indian tourism.

From its magnificent palaces and ancient temples to its wildlife sanctuaries and waterfalls, Tripura’s lush green landscapes boast much to entertain visitors of all tastes.

Tucked away in the forested Jampui Hills lies the heritage site of Unakoti. A centuries-old Shaivite pilgrimage spot, Unakoti’s Lost Hill of Faces is unlike any other attraction in India. The most famous statue is a 30-foot-high carving of Shiva’s head, crowned with a 10-foot high headdress. Flanked by the Goddesses Ganga and Durga, the relief also incorporates several other Hindu deities, including Hanuman, Nandi, and Ganesh.

4. Spiti – Himachal Pradesh

Spiti, which translates to English as “Middle Country,” is a town straddling the border between India and Tibet. Though technically falling within India, Spiti incorporates a strong Tibetan cultural influence, with colorful prayer flags fluttering in the wind, and monks in saffron colored robes wafting from ancient monasteries.

Spiti’s largest monastery is Kye. Perched atop a hill at an altitude of 4,166 meters, Kye is the largest training center for monks in the region.

This cold desert region is a land of contrasts, where green plains vie with barren mountainsides, beneath towering, snow-capped peaks. Spiti is a land of myth and mystery, its incredible rock formations carved by melting snow over the centuries, leaving deep gouges stretching up to the sky.

5. Majuli – Assam

Best known for its picturesque views and untouched tribal cultures, Majuli is a large island on the Brahmaputra river, and is one of just a handful of wetland ecosystems in India.

Accessible by ferry from Jorhat, Majuli is best avoided between the months of July and September, when severe flooding causes considerable disruption. The best time to visit is the third week of November, when the Ras Leela festival attracts visitors from near and far, with cultural music, dance, and theatrical performances.

Majuli’s Hindu Satras are world-famous places of worship that remain an integral part of Assamese life, with 31 of the original 16th century structures still in use today. Satras not only serve as places of worship, but are also important centers of culture, arts, and literature. A hotspot for flora and fauna, Majuli harbors many rare and endangered species, including the Siberian crane, pelican, and whistling teal. The island is under threat due to soil erosion, with conservationists warning that within 20 years, the entire island could be underwater.