(CNN) – The days of hiking in the airport, taking out a passport, then taking a flight wherever one wants, at the moment, is a distant memory.
The Covid-19 pandemic is about the travel landscape, likely for decades to come.
Countries around the world are entering new lockdowns, but even when restrictions are lifted, it is likely that mandatory vaccination before air travel may soon be necessary.
Japan is at the top of the list
Asian citizens continue to possess the most powerful travel documents in the world.
The index does not take into account temporary restrictions, so Japan is once again at the top of the leaderboard, offering visa-free or visa-free access on arrival to 191 destinations around the world.
Singapore is in second place (190 score) and South Korea is tied with Germany in third place (189 score).
A little further in the top ten, New Zealand ranks seventh, with visa-free access to 185 destinations, while Australia ranks eighth, with access to 184 destinations.
The dominance of the Asia-Pacific region This is a relatively new phenomenon in the index’s 16-year history.
The United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union countries have traditionally governed, but, according to Henley & Partners reports in their release, “Experts indicate that the APAC region’s position of strength will continue as it includes some of the first countries to begin the recovery from the pandemic.”
The numbers of coronavirus cases are currently rising sharply in both the US and the UK, with the UK being the epicenter of a new rapidly spreading variable.
The temporary travel restrictions related to this mean that – while the UK and the US are seventh on Henley’s list – the truth is that US passport holders are currently able to travel to fewer than 75 destinations, while UK passport holders can reach less than 70.
Japan ranks first in 2020.
TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA / AFP / Getty Images
Emirates that cannot be stopped
There were relatively few high-profile visa agreements between countries during 2020 – with the UAE being a notable exception, Henley & Partners says.
The United Arab Emirates signed several reciprocal visa waiver agreements in the past year, including a landmark agreement brokered by the United States to establish formal relations with Israel and grant citizens of each country visa-free access to the other country.
The UAE ranks 16th in the rating, with visa-free / visa-on-arrival access to 173 destinations. That’s an astonishing rise from its position when the index was launched in 2006, when the country was ranked 62nd, with only 35 potential.
Everyone for himself
Says Christian H. Caillin, President of Henley & Henley & Partners and inventor of the Passport Index concept.
“The global lockdown has nullified these glowing forecasts, and as restrictions begin to be lifted, the latest index results are a reminder of what the strength of a passport really means in a world upended by the pandemic.”
In terms of future global mobility, we should not expect a return to pre-pandemic patterns, says Parag Khanna, author of “The Future is Asian” and founder and managing partner of Singapore’s FutureMap consultancy. Perhaps it is no longer the case that nationality alone will open doors.
“Even for passports that are still as strong as Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and members of the European Union, additional protocols will be needed to restore relatively frictionless mobility,” says Khanna.
“Today’s youth are socially conscious, environmentally conscious, and less nationalistic – all of which makes them the most mobile generation in human history. They herald a fundamental shift in mobility from being each country for itself to being everyone for himself.”
The best passports for 2021 are:
1. Japan (191 destinations)
2- Singapore (190)
3- South Korea and Germany (189)
4- Italy, Finland, Spain and Luxembourg (188).
5- Denmark and Austria (187)
6- Sweden, France, Portugal, Netherlands and Ireland (186)
7- Switzerland, the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, Belgium, and New Zealand (185).
8- Greece, Malta, the Czech Republic, and Australia (184).
9- Canada (183)
10- Hungary (181)
The worst passports
Many countries around the world have access to less than 40 countries without a visa or visa on arrival. These include:
103- North Korea (39 destinations)
104 Libya and Nepal (38).
105- Palestinian Territories (37)
106- Somalia and Yemen (33).
107 Pakistan (32)
108- Syria (29).
109- Iraq (28).
110- Afghanistan (26).
The Henley & Partner List is one of several indicators created by financial companies to rank global passports according to the accessibility they provide to their citizens.
The Henley Passport Index is based on data provided by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and covers 199 passports and 227 destinations. It is updated in real time throughout the year, when visa policy changes take effect.
The Arton Capital Passport Index takes into account the passports of 193 member states of the United Nations and six territories – the Republic of China, Taiwan, Macau (China), Hong Kong (China), Kosovo, the Palestinian Territories and the Vatican. Territories annexed to other countries are excluded.
Its 2021 index places Germany first, with a score of 134 visa-free / visa-free on arrival.