Passport power survives setbacks

SINGAPORE, 7 January 2021: The 2021 Henley Passport Index again confirms the ascendancy of Asia-Pacific passports despite setbacks in travel freedoms caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Without taking temporary restrictions into account, Japan continues to hold the top spot on the index, with passport holders able to access 191 destinations around the world visa-free.

It marks the third consecutive year that Japan has held the top spot, either alone or jointly with Singapore.

Singapore sits in second place, with access to 190 destinations, and South Korea in 3rd place alongside Germany, have a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 189. Slightly further down but still in the top 10, New Zealand is in 7th position, with visa-free access to 185 destinations, while Australia is in 8th 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 EU 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 7th place, a position it currently shares with the UK. Due to pandemic-related travel constraints, travellers from both the UK and the US currently face major restrictions from over 105 countries, with US passport holders able to travel to fewer than 75 destinations, while UK passport holders currently have access to fewer than 70.

With the first Covid-19 vaccine approved just over a month ago, airline industry experts believe that mandatory vaccination before air travel may soon be a necessity. A technological innovation scheduled to launch in Q1 2021 that will contribute to restoring global mobility is IATA’s Travel Pass initiative — a mobile application that enables travellers to store and manage their verified certifications for Covid-19 tests or vaccines.