Japan has consolidated its spot at the top of the Index, now offering its citizens visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to a record total of 189 destinations. Following closely behind Japan are Singapore and Germany in joint 2ndplace, with 188 destinations accessible without a prior visa. 3rdplace is shared by six countries: one Asian (South Korea) and the rest European (Finland, France, Italy, Spain, and Sweden).
The UAE races to the top as the Middle East region places tourism firmly on the agenda.
Leading global efforts towards improved travel freedom is the UAE, which has gained access to eight new countries in 2018 alone: China, Ireland, Burkina Faso, Uruguay, Guinea, Tonga, Benin, and Honduras.
The country's reciprocal agreement with China in particular has led to the Emirati hospitality and tourist industries reporting growth of up to 70 per cent compared to 2017, as Chinese travellers begin taking advantage of their newfound access to the Middle East's main hub.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs said recently that the country is actively strengthening its diplomatic efforts in a bid to have one of the top five passports in the world, as per the country's Vision 2021.
Ryan Cummings, Director of Signal Risk and a leading commentator on the MENA region, confirms this sentiment: "The visa-waiver agreements signed by the UAE to date are very much in line with the country's ongoing intention to position itself as the foremost commercial hub in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) zone, where it is increasingly hosting the regional headquarters of multinational firms operating in culturally diverse industries such as healthcare, professional and financial services, and digital technologies.
Economic diversification away from the oil sector and towards the less volatile tourism industry has in fact become a common theme across the GCC zone.
Bucking the trend in the GCC, however, is Oman, which withdrew the universal issuance of visas-on-arrival in March 2018. Visitors from all except a few select countries will now have to apply for an e-Visa via the Royal Oman Police website before traveling to the area."
Meanwhie, the US and the UK are tied in 4thplace, along with Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Portugal; the US has climbed one place compared to Q1 while the UK has remained stable.
While Schengen Area countries have traditionally topped the index as a result of their open access to Europe, developed Asian nations have been able to secure equally high scores in recent years thanks to their strong international trade and diplomatic relations.
TheHenley Passport Indexsurveys a total of 199 different passports against 227 different travel destinations, including countries, territories, and micro-states.
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