Passport holders with the greatest global access are currently the most restricted and reluctant to enjoy their travel freedom in the post-pandemic era, according to the latest results from the Henley Passport Index.

Japan holds the number one spot on the index — which is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) — with a record-high visa-free or visa-on-arrival score of 193, while Singapore and South Korea come in joint-second place, with a score of 192.

But despite the unmatched worldwide access afforded to the citizens of these three nations over the index’s 17-year history, international passenger demand in the Asia-Pacific region has only reached 17 per cent of pre-COVID levels, according to IATA’s latest statistics, having hovered below 10 per cent for most of the past two years.

This figure is far behind the global trend where markets in Europe and North America have recovered to around 60 per cent of pre-crisis travel mobility levels.

Commenting in the Henley Global Mobility Report 2022 Q3, Dr Marie Owens Thomsen, chief economist at IATA, said passenger numbers should reach 83 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in 2022.

“By next year, many markets should see traffic reach or exceed pre-pandemic levels, while we expect this to be the case for the industry as a whole in 2024,” Owens Thomsen said.

EU member states dominate the rest of the top ten spots on the latest ranking, with Germany and Spain in joint-third place, with access to 190 destinations visa-free.

Finland, Italy, and Luxembourg follow closely behind in joint-fourth place with 189 destinations, and Denmark, Netherlands, and Sweden share fifth place with their passport holders able to travel to 188 destinations worldwide without a visa.

Both the UK and the US have dropped down a rank, to sixth and seventh place, respectively, and Afghanistan remains at the bottom of the index, with its nationals only able to access 27 destinations worldwide visa-free.

Image: iStock/Rowan Jordan