Indian passport holders now have roughly the same travel freedom as they did pre-pandemic, with unrestricted access to 60 destinations around the world, as opposed to just 23 destinations in 2020, says a report.

In India, visa applications are averaging over 20,000 per day as the July–August holiday season approaches, shows data. Most countries preferred by travellers holding Indian passports are Canada, Europe, and the U.K., shows the Henley Passport Index.

The index ranks the world’s passports as per the number of countries their holders can access without a prior visa.

Japan holds the number one spot on the index, with a record-high visa-free or visa-on-arrival score of 193, while Singapore and South Korea come in at 2nd place, with a score of 192.

But despite the unprecedented worldwide access afforded to the citizens of these three nations, international passenger demand in the Asia-Pacific region has only reached 17% of pre-Covid levels, shows IATA’s data.

The top four nationalities currently driving demand are Russians, Indians, Americans, and Brits, and for the first time ever, Ukrainians are in the top 10 globally.

Countries like Europe and North America have achieved around 60% of pre-crisis travel mobility levels. Marie Owens Thomsen, chief economist at IATA, says by next year, many markets should see traffic reach or exceed pre-pandemic levels, while this could be the case for the industry as a whole in 2024.

EU member states dominate the rest of the top 10 spots on the latest ranking, with Germany and Spain in joint-3rd place, with access to 190 destinations visa-free. Finland, Italy, and Luxembourg follow closely behind in joint-4th place with 189 destinations, and Denmark, Netherlands, and Sweden share 5th place, with their passport holders able to travel to 188 destinations worldwide without a visa.

Both the U.K. and the U.S. have dropped down a rank, to 6th and 7th place, respectively, and Afghanistan remains at the bottom of the index, with its nationals only able to access 27 destinations worldwide visa-free. Henley & Partners research shows that U.K. and U.S. passport holders now have unrestricted access to 158 destinations around the world.

After months of what was described as “travel apartheid”, where travel from developing nations in the global south was effectively blocked while citizens of wealthier countries in the global north were making marked gains in travel freedom, lower-ranking passports are also beginning to recover. For example, restricted to just 46 destinations at the height of the Omicron wave in 2021, South African passport holders now have unrestricted access to 95 destinations, close to their pre-pandemic passport score of 105.

The Russian passport currently sits at 50th place on the index. It has a visa-free or visa-free on arrival score of 119. Russian passport holders are more cut off from the rest of the world than ever before, amid the Russia-Ukraine war.

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