Countries located in the Asia Pacific have taken out the top three spots in the latest Henley Passport Index, as the region looks set to emerge first from the pandemic.
The index ranks all the world passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa, with the Q1 2021 rankings providing a fascinating insight into the future of travel freedom in a world transformed by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Without taking temporary restrictions into account, Japan continues to hold the number one position on the index, with passport holders able to access 191 destinations around the world visa-free.
This marks the third consecutive year that Japan has held the top spot, either alone or jointly with Singapore.
The dominance of APAC countries in the index — which is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) — now seems firmly established.
Singapore sits in second position, with access to 190 destinations, and South Korea holds onto third place alongside Germany, with both having a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 189.
Slightly further down but still in the top 10 is New Zealand in seventh position, with visa-free access to 185 destinations; while Australia is in eighth position, with access to 184 destinations.
The ascendance of APAC countries in the Henley Passport Index rankings is a relatively new phenomenon.
Over the index’s 16-year history, the top spots were traditionally held by European countries, the UK, or the US, and experts suggest that the APAC region’s position of strength will continue as it includes some of the first countries to begin the process of recovering from the pandemic.
With the US and the UK still facing significant challenges related to the virus, and the passport strength of both countries continuing to steadily erode, the balance of power is shifting.
Over the past seven years, the US passport has fallen from the number one spot to seventh place – a position it currently shares with the UK.
Due to pandemic-related travel constraints, travellers from both countries currently face major restrictions from over 105 other nations, with US passport holders able to travel to fewer than 75 destinations, while UK passport holders currently have access to fewer than 70.
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