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CHANGING PLACES

It was close, but China’s passport power is suddenly far ahead of India’s

Tourists from China, India and Vietnam visit Wall Street and the financial district, Thursday, April 28, 2011 in New York.
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
Good spot.
  • Echo Huang
By Echo Huang

Reporter

Published Last updated on This article is more than 2 years old.

Up until 2016, an Indian passport offered easy entry to more countries and territories than a Chinese passport. But the coin has flipped.

A global ranking of passport power shows China in 75th place, an all-time high, while India came in at 86, on par with Cambodia and the Central African Republic in terms of ease of travel. That’s one of India’s lowest scores on the Henley Passport Index since citizenship planning firm Henley & Partners started its passport ranking in 2006, according to historic data shared with Quartz. This year’s index, released Jan. 9, looked at 199 countries and regions through data from International Air Travel Association and its own research.

Chinese tourists can now travel to 60 countries or territories without a visa, or with a visa on arrival, increasing from 51 places in 2017, according to Henley. But Indian tourists can do so to only 49 countries—the same number as in 2017, according to data from Henley. Less than a decade ago, in 2010, China had liberalized visa access to just 38 nations or regions, while India could count on easy entry to 50 places. The two countries were neck-and-neck more recently—until China overtook India.

The growing power of China’s passport has seen a significant increase in Chinese travel—and spending—overseas. Chinese tourists flocked to Morocco during the week of National Day holidays in 2016, shortly after the African country stopped requiring visas for Chinese tourists. According to the Beijing-based research institute, China Tourism Academy, Chinese tourists in the same year spent $110 billion overseas (link in Chinese)—an amount about the same as Morocco’s 2016 GDP.

Indians, however, are still finding some of their favorite foreign travel spots difficult to get to. For instance, three out of the country’s seven most sought-after international honeymoon destinations—Singapore, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates—still require visas for Indian tourists. In general, the country has seen its ranking decline in recent years, after coming in at 71 in 2006, its best showing ever. Its lowest rank in the Henley Passport Index was 87, which it hit in both 2015 and 2017.

At one level, however, China and India still have a lot in common when it comes to their passport power—they both depend on some of the most welcoming countries in the world, according to a ranking from financial advisory firm Arton Capital, which also has its own passport index. These include Southeast Asian nation Cambodia, and African countries such as Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, and Madagascar. These countries give visa-free entry or visa on arrival for all the nations and territories on Arton’s index.

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