It seems like a lifetime ago since we last made our way to the airport and flashed our passports before hopping on a flight to the next destination on our travel bucket list.
Travel came to a screeching halt following the outbreak of the pandemic, and although some countries have re-opened its borders, COVID-19 has forever changed the travel landscape.
The Henley Passport Index, which periodically measures the world’s most travel-friendly passports, has just released its latest report — and an analysis of what might lie ahead. The index is the original ranking of all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa.
For 2021, Trinidad & Tobago ranks as the fifth most powerful Caribbean passport with visa-free access to 151 destinations around the world. When ranking among all countries, T&T places 29th overall, up two spots from 2020 with a ranking of 31.
Barbados is top of the list
Barbados has yet again been ranked as the most powerful Caribbean passport, with visa-free access to 161 destinations around the world. St. Kitts & Nevis places second with visa-free access to 156 destinations, The Bahamas places third with 155 destinations, followed by Antigua & Barbuda with visa-free access to 151 countries.
The top Caribbean passports to hold in 2021 are:
- Barbados (visa-free access to 161 destinations)
2. St. Kitts & Nevis (156 destinations)
3. The Bahamas (155 destinations)
4. Antigua & Barbuda (151 destinations)
5. Trinidad & Tobago (150 destinations)
6. St. Vincent & The Grenadines (148 destinations)
7. St. Lucia (146 destinations)
8. Grenada (144 destinations)
9. Dominica (143 destinations)
10. Jamaica (86 destinations)
When looking at general global rankings, Japan has once again been ranked as the most powerful passport in the world, with visa-free access to 191 destinations. Singapore ranks second with access to 190 destinations while South Korea and Germany tie for third with visa-free access to 189 countries. Italy, Finland, Spain and Luxembourg tie for fourth; Denmark and Austria round out the global top five with visa-free access to 187 countries.
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 now seems firmly established.
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.
The 10 best passports to hold in 2021 are:
1. Japan (visa-free access to 191 destinations)
2. Singapore (190)
3. South Korea, Germany (189)
4. Italy, Finland, Spain, Luxembourg (188)
5. Denmark, Austria (187)
6. Sweden, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Ireland (186)
7. Switzerland, United States, United Kingdom, Norway, Belgium, New Zealand (185)
8. Greece, Malta, Czech Republic, Australia (184)
9. Canada (183)
10. Hungary (181)
What does this mean in the age of COVID?
While the rankings may currently appear to be of no consequence since TrinBagonians can’t travel, the index still provides some interesting insight into the future of travel freedom in a world that has been transformed by the effects of COVID. Between PCR tests, quarantine regulations and talks of mandated vaccine passports, in a post-COVID world, the power of our passports may rely on our collective risk factor for spreading the virus.
It also means that for developed and developing nations alike, travel freedom is currently not only the result of a lack of social freedom or poor economic development but also a failure of risk management, health readiness, monitoring and detection. In other words, global immobility is no longer solely the plight of citizens of less advanced countries.
“Just a year ago all indications were that the rates of global mobility would continue to rise, that travel freedom would increase, and those holders of powerful passports would enjoy more access than ever before,” says Christian H. Kaelin, chairman of leading residence and citizenship advisory firm Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept.
“The global lockdown negated these glowing projections, and as restrictions begin to lift, the results from the latest index are a reminder of what passport power really means in a world upended by the pandemic.”