(CNN) – If there was a Passport Olympiad, Japan would not only host it, but win the entire competition.
The Henley Passport Index, which has been regularly monitoring the world’s most travel-friendly passports since 2006, has published its latest rankings and analysis.
Since the index does not take into account time restrictions, Japan is back at the top of the rankings, with its passport offering visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 193 destinations around the world.
However, the Henley & Partners report says that in the first quarter of 2021 international mobility was still only 12% of its pre-pandemic levels, meaning that “the gap between theoretical access and actual access for travel offered even for high-ranking passports is still significant. “
In the real world, Japanese passport holders theoretically have access to fewer than 80 destinations right now, roughly the same as Saudi Arabia’s index ranking, which ranks 71st (while Saudis currently have access to actual trip to just 58 destinations).
The passport top 10 remains largely unchanged going into the second half of the year, with Singapore in second place (with a score of 192) and South Korea tying with Germany in third place (with a score of 191).
Again, in real world terms, it’s a bit different. Singapore passport holders can currently access fewer than 75 destinations (equivalent to Kazakhstan’s index ranking, which is ranked 74th).
The ones that climb the most are China and the United Arab Emirates
Even countries with successful COVID-19 vaccine deployments are still subject to travel restrictions. The United States and the United Kingdom rank seventh jointly on the index, along with Switzerland, Belgium and New Zealand; Both have steadily declined in passport power since they ranked first together in 2014.
In theory, US and UK passport holders can access 187 destinations worldwide, but the reality is that the doors are only open to UK travelers in fewer than 60 destinations, while that the US is just ahead at 61. That puts them on par with the index rankings of Uzebkistan and Rwanda, respectively.
As usual, most of the remaining top 10 positions in the index are held by EU countries. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain are in fourth place; Austria and Denmark are at number five; while France, Ireland, Holland, Portugal and Sweden are together at number six. In terms of freedom of travel, the big success stories of the last decade have been China and the United Arab Emirates.
Since 2011, China has climbed 22 places, from position 90 to 68, while the United Arab Emirates has moved from position 65 to 15. Its work to strengthen diplomatic relations around the world now means that its citizens are allowed a easy access to 174 destinations, compared to 67 destinations a decade ago.
Christian H. Kaelin, president of Henley & Partners, says that while we do not know how long the travel restrictions will continue, it is clear that global mobility will be seriously hampered at least for the rest of this year. “In many countries, serious doubts have arisen about the ability to handle a global crisis, with the consequent adoption of more internal priorities.”
He adds: “Increasing isolationism and deglobalization will undoubtedly have profound consequences, including further damage to the world economy (and) a significant reduction in global mobility.”
Henley has commissioned exclusive research and analysis, and has found that international leisure travel is still less than 10% of pre-covid levels and is largely regional.
There is also growing passport inequality in this new era.
Japanese passport holders have visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 167 more destinations than citizens of Afghanistan, who are at the bottom of the ranking as they can only visit 26 places without the need for an advance visa. That’s the biggest gap between countries since the index began, says Henley & Partners.
The next decade
“The widespread adoption of covid passports appears to be an imminent reality for those who can access them,” says Robert Maciejewski, CEO of the SIP Medical Family Office in Switzerland, in the Henley report.
“Even if the legal obligation to obtain a covid passport is unlikely in most democratic countries, not having one will likely result in de facto restrictions on your freedom, whether to travel or for routine daily activities.”
Due to global disparities in terms of access to vaccines and delivery programs, “covid passports will undoubtedly further widen passport inequality around the world,” says Henley’s Kaelin.
IATA, the global airline trade association, welcomes the move by many countries to allow vaccinated travelers to bypass quarantine, but also warns that the freedom to travel is something that should be available to everyone.
Willie Walsh, IATA CEO, says: “The data shows us that vaccinated travelers should not be restricted. And screening can safely open borders for those without access to the vaccine.”
The Henley report also comments on the protectionist approach taken by many governments in response to the pandemic and the adoption of introspective policies. He suggests that if more countries adopted a collaborative approach, it would have had more beneficial effects globally.
Greg Lindsay, director of applied research at NewCities, a Canadian-based nonprofit, says: “As global cities and nations grapple with the ramifications of COVID-19, it is critical that they realize the true nature of the threat – and opportunity – before them. “
“Instead of thinking of wealthy former residents now working from their second or third homes, they should focus on restoring the flow of immigrants. Cities that become more hospitable to newcomers in the wake of the pandemic are poised to be the capitals. of the new roaring twenties. “
The best passports to travel in 2021 are:
1. Japan (193 destinations)
2. Singapore (192)
3. Germany, South Korea (191)
4. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain (190)
5. Austria, Denmark (189)
6. France, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden (188)
7. Belgium, New Zealand, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States (187)
8. Czech Republic, Greece, Malta, Norway (186)
9. Australia, Canada (185)
10. Hungary (184)
The worst passports to travel
Several countries around the world have visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to fewer than 40 countries. These include:
108. North Korea (39 destinations)
109. Nepal (38)
110. Palestinian territories (37)
111. Somalia (34)
112. Yemen (33)
113. Pakistan (32)
114 Syria (29)
115. Iraq (28)
116. Afghanistan (26)
The Henley & Partner list is one of several indexes created by financial firms to rank global passports based on the access they provide to their citizens.
The Henley Passport Index is based on data provided by the International Air Transport Authority (IATA) and covers 199 passports and 227 travel destinations. It is updated in real time throughout the year, as visa policy changes take effect.
The Arton Capital passport index takes into account the passports of 193 member countries of the United Nations and six territories: Taiwan, Macao (Special Administrative Region – SAR – China), Hong Kong (SAR – China), Kosovo, Palestinian Territory and the Vatican. Territories annexed to other countries are excluded.
Its mid-2021 index has New Zealand in first place, scoring 136 visa-free / visa-on-arrival.