Asia Pacific Reigns in 2021 Henley Passport Index as Region Looks Set to Emerge First from Pandemic

As 2021 commences, the latest results from the Henley Passport Index — the original ranking of all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa — provide fascinating insights into the future of travel freedom in a world that has been 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. Asia Pacific (APAC) region countries’ dominance of the index — which is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) — now seems firmly established. Singapore sits in 2nd position, with access to 190 destinations, and South Korea holds onto 3rd place alongside Germany, with both having 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.

Experts suggest that in terms of future global mobility, we cannot expect a return to pre-pandemic patterns. Dr. Parag Khanna, bestselling author (The Future Is Asian) and the Founder and Managing Partner of FutureMap in Singapore says that the system will not simply revert to what it was, and that nationality alone will no longer suffice to guarantee safe passage. “Even for still-powerful passports such as Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and members of the EU, additional protocols will be required to re-attain relatively frictionless mobility.” Looking further ahead, Khanna suggests that demographic shifts are likely to usher in far more dramatic changes: “Today’s youth are socially conscious, environmentally aware, and less nationalistic — all of which makes them potentially the most mobile generation in human history. They herald a seminal shift in mobility from being every country for itself to being every person for themself.”

More key developments like this one are discussed in the Henley & Partners Global Mobility Report 2021 Q1 report, which features cutting-edge analysis and commentary from leading academics and professional experts as well as new research by Deep Knowledge Group, overlaying data from the Covid-19 Risk and Safety Assessment with the latest Henley Passport Index results. What emerges is the clear correlations between travel freedom and government efficiency when it comes to risk management, health readiness, and the monitoring and detection of Covid-19. Of the 27 countries that occupy the top 10 rankings on the Henley Passport Index, over half offer investment migration programs with options for alternative residence or citizenship.

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