Travel TrendsAsian countries take the lead in Henley Passport Index’s latest ranking

World’s strongest passport? It’s still Japan

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Asian countries take the lead in Henley Passport Index’s latest ranking, while the US and the UK continue their downward slide on the chart, offering a window into a rapidly changing travel scene.
Asian countries take the lead in Henley Passport Index’s latest ranking, while the US and the UK continue their downward slide on the chart, offering a window into a rapidly changing travel scene. Photo Credit: Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Asian countries take the lead in Henley Passport Index’s latest ranking, while the US and the UK continue their downward slide on the chart, offering a window into a rapidly changing travel scene.

Similar to trade freedom, countries that rank highly in investment freedom generally have stronger passports. European states such as Austria, Malta, and Switzerland clearly show that countries with a business-friendly environment tend to score highly when it comes to passport power. Likewise, by using the Human Freedom Index, we found a strong correlation between personal freedom and travel freedom,– Dominic Volek, head of Southeast Asia and managing partner, Henley & Partners

“The benefits of open-door policies and mutually beneficial trade agreements can no longer be denied. Based on our ongoing research, countries that embrace this new reality of global mobility are thriving, with their citizens enjoying ever-increasing passport power and travel freedom, as well as the array of benefits that come with it,” said Dominic Volek, head of Southeast Asia and managing partner, Henley & Partners.

Ranked according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa, Japan remains at the top for the third consecutive year with a score of 191 after being granted visa on arrival access to Saudi Arabia – which Singapore, with a score of 190 at second position, did not.

South Korea and Germany jointly lay claim to the third spot, giving visa-free/visa-on-arrival access to 189 destinations worldwide. Adding to the Asian stronghold is Taiwan, moving 37 spots up the ranking from 69th place in 2010 to 32nd place currently.

While the US and the UK still remain in the top 10 – standing jointly on the eight spot – the ranking is a far drop from the first spot they jointly held in 2015. In the same region, also in the top 10 ranking are Finland and Italy sharing fourth spot with a score of 199, Denmark, Luxembourg, and Spain together at fifth place with a score of 187.

Of worthy mention remains the UAE’s steady climb, pushing 47 places upwards over the last decade to take its current 18th spot, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 171. Saudi Arabia like UAE, too climbed four spots, while Oman climbed three. Saudi Arabia is in 66th place, its citizens having access to 77 destinations worldwide without a prior visa.

However, Dr. Lorraine Charles, research associate at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Business Research, warns that migration and mobility trends in the Middle East are largely driven by conflict, which looks set to continue in 2020.

Next, the trend of western investment shifting out of China towards Southeast Asia is also evident in the wave of foreign talent entering ASEAN countries through streamlined visa policies. A beneficiary is Thailand, whose passport jumped three spots in the index over the past year to the 65th spot in this 2020 edition of the Henley Passport Index and Global Mobility Report.

Afghanistan remains at the bottom of the index, with its nationals only able to visit a mere 26 destinations visa-free.

“Similar to trade freedom, countries that rank highly in investment freedom generally have stronger passports. European states such as Austria, Malta, and Switzerland clearly show that countries with a business-friendly environment tend to score highly when it comes to passport power. Likewise, by using the Human Freedom Index, we found a strong correlation between personal freedom and travel freedom,” said Mr Volek.

Giving an example of said correlation, Mr Volek pointed to Singapore, which ranks highest in nearly all economic indicators, far above Asia Pacific’s average, with the country also holding the second spot on the Henley Passport Index ranking.

Other results from the index showed that globally, the travel freedom divide is getting more extreme – Japanese passport holders for instance can access 165 more destinations that last ranking Afghan nationals. This would be the largest gap since the index’s inception in 2006.


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