DUBAI — As the UAE opens its doors to the world for the start of Expo 2020, the world’s ultimate real-time tool on global mobility, the Passport Index, has revealed a 14.8 percent increase in the World Openness Score (WOS) at the start of Q4, since the beginning of the year.
While up nine percent on the last quarter, the average global mobility score (MS), across all 199 states measured by the index, is 89; based on a total of visa-free or visa-on-arrival access provided.
The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect travel and mobility and it is testament to the many countries around the world that have managed to take a lead in seeing the world opening up once more. In July 2021, Bloomberg’s COVID tracking data reported that the UAE was the most vaccinated country, in the world, with over 73.8 percent of the population vaccinated.
The UAE has not one but two powerful passports — the yellow “Expo 2020 passport,” which gives you access to 191 countries — but only at Expo 2020 Dubai and over the next six months. Expo 2020, dubbed the World’s Greatest Show hosted a lavish opening ceremony on Oct 30, 2021.
Based on a mobility score that totals the number of visa-free or visa-on-arrival countries a passport currently grants the holder, the Passport Index also notes COVID-related restrictions that are changing by the day. This allows travellers and governments to have the most up to date information on global mobility — in real time.
For example, at the time of writing, the mobility score of the US is 142. This is calculated over two data points: A US passport holder has access to 97 countries visa-free, plus a further 45 with visa-on-arrival.
Restrictions due to COVID-19 are also considered by the index, which is useful in terms of providing the most up to the minute information for travelers and governments, as changes in this regard are more frequent.
While European passports continue to lead in the global rankings, Australia and South Korea (MS 144) both improved their mobility score going into Q4, moving into joint second place, along with Germany and Spain.
The UK, Canada, the US, (MS 142/joint 5th) and Singapore (MS 141/6th) were the only other non-European passports in the Passport Index’s top 10.
Commenting on the latest rankings, Armand Arton, president of Arton Capital, the creators of the Passport Index, said: “To start Q4 with a 14.8 percent increase in global mobility shows that the world is thankfully opening up once more, and on an encouragingly positive trajectory.
“We do note, however, that we are still only back to mobility levels first achieved six years ago, so the aftermath of the global shutdown is still very much in play.
“In addition to pandemic-related restrictions, geo-political events of the last three months have also seen the extra ordinary circumstances create travel, mobility and migration issues to and from Afghanistan — although the Afghan passport, prior to recent events, was already ranked lowest on the mobility score.
“While clearly a difficult time for many concerned, times of crisis can often put the issue of global mobility firmly into the spotlight,” Arton added.
Commenting on the increasing need and usefulness of the world’s only real-time tracker of global mobility, Hrant Boghossian, VP of marketing for Arton Capital, the inventors of the Passport Index, said: “In addition to the passport rankings and comparisons, our proprietary World Openness Score tool offers both a real time and periodic barometer of global mobility, showing the trends and movement of countries measured over a 199-country index.
“It is particularly useful for travelers as COVID-19 restrictions remain a key influencer and disrupter in one’s ability to travel. It is also useful for governments looking to compare their performance and relationship to others and gather insights on the trends and geopolitical decisions that affect such rankings,” Boghossian said.
The Passport Index is more than just a simple ranking tool; unlike other indicators on global mobility, the Passport Index’s data can reflect the temporary and often disruptive geo-political or pandemic-related travel restrictions — in real time.
In addition, the index’s ability to offer insights across a number of socio-political influencers means that many foreign ministries around the world are already using the platform to analyze and compare their policies with others.
Regional stats: In the GCC, the UAE was the biggest climber, across Q3 2021, moving up four places to the No. 1 spot. Over the last quarter, other GCC nations remain in similar rankings: Bahrain down seven places to 52nd (MS 80), Kuwait down eight to 50th (MS 85), Oman down seven to 56 (MS 75), Qatar down seven to 47 (MS 91), and Saudi Arabia down five in 55th place (MS 76).
Europe: Outside of the EU, the biggest moves in passport rankings, since the beginning of the year, were for Ukraine, up 37 places (MS 124/19th), Moldova up 34 places (MS 103/36th) and Albania, up 15 places to (MS 100/39th). The UK (MS 142) and Norway (MS 139) – remain in joint fifth and joint sixth place over Q3, but down one and three places, respectively, from the start of 2021. Russia is currently in 34th with an MS of 105.
Within the EU, Germany, Finland, Austria, Luxembourg, Spain, and Italy were the highest ranked on mobility (MS 144), all in joint third place alongside non-EU countries like South Korea, Australia, and Switzerland.
The most improved EU passport over the first three quarters was Malta (+12 places/5th) with Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic, among others, each climbing 11 places in their respective rankings, since January 2021.
The Americas: While the US and Canada (MS 142/5th) continue to climb the rankings after last year’s drop, Mexico dropped four spots to 24th over the last three months. In South America, Brazil is currently the highest ranked globally (MS 127/16th), having climbed 5 places in the first three quarters, the highest climber on the continent was Colombia, up 18 places into 38th position.
Africa: With many COVID-19 travel restrictions still in play across the African continent, movement and mobility scores here are either stagnant or have dropped several places since the start of the year and in Q3. At the turn of Q4 2021, the only improved mobility score since the start of the year is not on the continental mainland — The Seychelles (MS 111) in 29th position — the same ranking held at the beginning of the last quarter.
Asia: Over Q3, South Korea is the highest ranked Asian country in third (MS 144), while Japan is sixth (MS 141), from joint third at the end of Q2. China, the world’s second largest economy, has dropped 11 places (63rd) with a below world average MS 65. India is up 11 places since the start of year (72nd) with an MS of 56, but one of the biggest gainers in Asia, for 2021, remains the Kingdom of Brunei, up 94 places, over the first three quarters, and 22nd ranked globally.
The top ten: 1. United Arab Emirates Total MS 152; 2. New Zealand Total MS: 146; 3. Germany, Finland, Austria, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, South Korea, Australia Total MS: 144; 4. Sweden, The Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Portugal, Rep. of Ireland Total MS: 143; 5. France, Malta, Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Hungary, UK, Canada, USA. Total MS: 142; 6. Singapore, Norway, Slovenia, Slovakia, Japan. Total MS: 141; 7. Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Iceland. Total MS: 140; 8. Liechtenstein Total MS: 139; 9. Croatia. Total MS 137 and in 10, Romania, Bulgaria, Monaco. Total MS: 136.
10 weakest: 83. South Sudan, Libya, Sudan. Total MS 45; 84. Ethiopia, North Korea. Total MS: 44
85th: Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal. Total MS: 43; 86. Iran, Eritrea. Total MS: 42; 87. Palestinian Territories, Myanmar (Burma). Total MS: 41; 88. Yemen. Total MS: 38; 89. Somalia, Pakistan. Total MS: 37; 90. Syria. Total MS: 34; 91. Iraq. Total MS: 33; 92. Afghanistan. Total MS: 32 . — SG