There are 227 different travel destinations across the world that require a passport to enter the borders.
No country is guaranteed entry into every single one, but rising global mobility allows those in the top positions to come very close. It’s no wonder that more people are applying for dual-citizenships than ever.
Data compiled by the Henley Passport Index paints a fascinating picture of the state of future travel, looking at the bigger picture of who is allowed where and why in a post-pandemic world.
The index uses information from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to calculate how many travel destinations are accessible to the 199 passports that exist across the world. This is defined as destinations that allow either visa-free entry or a visa upon arrival, rather than a lengthier, more complicated vetting process.
As countries start to open up again, holiday sales are booming. But which country holds the key to as many travel options as possible?
Here are the five top countries for 2022.
5th: Ireland and Portugal (187 countries)
4th: Sweden, Netherlands, France, Denmark and Austria (188 countries)
3rd: Spain, Luxembourg, Italy and Finland (189 countries)
2nd: South Korea and Germany (190 countries)
1st: Japan and Singapore (192 countries)
What does this tell us about global mobility?
Let's first address the elephant in the room: UK and US passports are wholly absent from the top spots, proving to be not half as powerful as they were once thought.
They rank joint 6th, along with Switzerland, Norway, New Zealand and Belgium, stumbling downwards since they were both the pinnacles of the list back in 2014. There’s no definite reason as to why, but it could be the fallout from the adoption of increasingly anti-immigration sentiments by their respective governments.
What it means is various European destinations have cemented their place above the UK and US.
Many Asian countries have soared throughout the index since its creation in 2006. Japan retaining its position as the world’s strongest passport reflects on how it thrives off globalisation.
Some that haven’t fared as well include Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, whose passports allow entry to less than 30 destinations.
The 'travel freedom gap'
This year’s index shows the “travel freedom gap” is at an all time high. It is measured by the difference between the highest and lowest performing countries on the index.
Japan and Singapore's respective destination access is a gigantic 166 countries greater than Afghanistan's.
Prior research from the London School of Economics echoes this - while the latter half of the 20th century was a great time for visa waivers and expanding travel networks, there are winners and losers under this system that continue to be impacted to this day.
Some of the reasons for this could be exacerbated by the events of the past year, including the pandemic and ongoing political crises.