Henley & Partners has published its passport index for 2021, outlining the countries that South African can travel to visa-free right now, and how the pandemic has impacted international travel.
The Henley Passport 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.
The ranking is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains the world’s largest and most accurate database of travel information.
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.
Singapore sits in second position, with access to 190 destinations, and South Korea holds onto third 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 seventh position, with visa-free access to 185 destinations, while Australia is in eighth position, with access to 184 destinations.
Dr. Christian Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners, said that the latest ranking provides an opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary upheaval that characterized 2020.
“Just a year ago all indications were that the rates of global mobility would continue to rise, that travel freedom would increase, and that holders of powerful passports would enjoy more access than ever before.
“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.”
With the first Covid-19 vaccine approved just over a month ago, airline industry experts believe that mandatory vaccination before air travel may soon be a necessity.
A technological innovation scheduled to launch in Q1 2021 that will contribute to restoring global mobility is IATA’s Travel Pass initiative — a mobile application that enables travellers to store and manage their verified certifications for Covid-19 tests or vaccines.
The index shows that South Africa has lost two places in the rankings, moving down to 54th position. At the start of 2021, SA passport holders are able to access 101 destinations without obtaining a prior visa.
However, as with other countries, it faces ongoing travel restrictions due to the pandemic.
At the end of December, the UK’s Health and Social Care secretary Matt Hancock moved to ban travel between the two countries, citing the second Covid-19 variant as a key concern.
This week Denmark said that it has also include South Africa on its list of ‘banned countries’. “The entry ban for foreigners who do not reside in Denmark and travel from South Africa is in place from 6 January 2021 until and including 17 January 2021,” it said.
As with South Africa’s opening of borders, countries that do allow travel for leisure and tourism purposes do not do so unconditionally, and will require travellers to either submit recent negative Covid-19 tests, or be subject to a mandatory quarantine period.
Below are the 101 countries South Africans can travel to visa-free according to the latest Henley & Partners report.