Global Mobility Under Siege – Passport Index Report 2021

The 2021 Passport Index Global Mobility Report reveals what rock-bottom for global mobility looks like during a worldwide pandemic.

The Passport Index was initially created to offer a deeper look into the world of global mobility — passport triumphs and downfalls, global ranking trends, unforeseen surprises, and everything in between. But in the past year, what it truly offered, was a deeper look into humanity.

Evidently, COVID-19 caused major disruptions to mobility, hindering international travel, revoking existing visas to citizens and visitors, and rendering passport powers to all-time lows.

With rapidly changing real-time data to reflect COVID-19 lockdown measures, to the World Openness Score plummeting 65% in a matter of months, Passport Index translated the depths of the pandemic into the future of global mobility and showed in numbers, how, what affects one person anywhere, can affect everyone everywhere.

And today, as countries progressively begin to reopen their borders and renew temporary visa bans, the 2021 Passport Index Global Mobility Report reveals what rock-bottom for global mobility looks like during a worldwide pandemic, and whether government decisions for lockdown measures were a positive mark for successful containment of the COVID-19 disease, or a cause for bigger concern in closing our world to responsible mobility.

Unlocking the future of travel

Since the inception of the World Openness Score (WOS) in 2015; year after year, Passport Index monitored the ease of travel between countries, as the world steadily opened at an average pace of 6%.

As avid optimists, our calculations suggested that if this trend continued, the world would be completely open for visa-free travel by 2035. That is, of course until 2020 happened.

Between December 31st 2019, and May 31st 2020 when COVID-19 was officially declared a global pandemic; WOS went from all-time high of 21,360, to its all-time low, of 12,994 — dropping 65%. What this meant was that as many — if not most — countries closed their borders, 67% of the world itself was closed for travel.

As we begin a new year however, current real-time data shows more promise. At a 15,597 WOS, up by 19.7% since its ultimate low point, we expect to see a continued increase in openness as global travel progressively resumes, as well as an increase in controlled protocols prioritizing the health of global travellers.

We have already begun to see a surge of initiatives to unlock the potential of digital identity for secure and seamless travel and a move towards digital passports. One thing is for certain, preparing for the worst has pushed global mobility to further innovate for a safer and more seamless travel experience as the world continues to open up.

A global “reset” for a new beginning

The world is more mobile than ever, and times like these are yet another testament to that. Movement of people, ideas, and services have defined the 21st century, driving innovations and uniting populations.

Despite increasing visa restrictions, the current pandemic does not define the end of globalization, but rather the start of responsible mobility. The fact is our world will become increasingly open and this outbreak has proven that the time has come to address adequate and responsible ways to optimize our mobility.

With every global problem, comes a global solution. Travelling responsibly with the notion that our world is becoming a global village will ensure that every citizen adopts a sense of responsibility for the rest of the world. And most importantly, it is imperative to remember that in the face of adversity, humanity continuously becomes more resilient.

Given the clear volatility of passports, holding one powerful passport no longer poses an advantage. It is critical to secure two or more passports for an improved combined global access, ensure proper shelter and healthcare, and additional protection from more than one state. If this experience has taught us one thing, it is to be prepared. And passports play a crucial role in ensuring that alternatives are within reach in case of another global crisis.

Read the full 2021 Passport Index Report, here.

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