How Powerful is Your Passport in a Post-Pandemic World?
With COVID-19 cases falling in many parts of the world and vaccination programs ramping up at warp speed, international travel no longer seems like a distant dream.
The Henley Passport Index, which has been regularly monitoring the world’s most travel-friendly passports since 2006, has released its latest rankings and analysis.
The most recent data provides insight into what travel freedom will look like in a post-pandemic world as countries selectively begin to open their borders to international visitors.
Prominent Countries Still Holding Strong
The rankings are based on the visa-free score of a particular country. A visa-free score refers to the number of countries that a passport holder can visit without a visa, with a visa on arrival, or by obtaining an electronic travel authorization (ETA).
Without considering the constantly changing COVID-19 restrictions, Japan firmly holds its position as the country with the strongest passport for the 4th year in a row.
This positioning is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA)—with Japanese passport holders theoretically able to access a record 193 destinations from around the world visa-free.
The last time Japan didn’t hold the number one position was back in 2017, when it shared the 5th spot with countries like the United States, New Zealand, and Switzerland.
|Rank (2021)||Country||Visa-Free Score (2021)||Rank (2011)||Visa-Free Score (2011)|
|3||🇰🇷 South Korea||191||10||163|
Singapore remains in 2nd place, with a visa-free score of 192, while Germany and South Korea again share joint-3rd place, each with access to 191 destinations.
Throughout the 16-year history of the Henley Index, EU countries have maintained a dominant position in the passport strength reports. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain all hold the 4th position while Austria and Denmark round up the top 5 with a visa-free score of 189.
|Country||Rank (2011)||Rank (2021)||Difference|
|🇺🇸 United States||5||7||-2|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||3||7||-4|
The United States and the United Kingdom jointly share the 7th position with a visa-free score of 187 destinations. Canada, Mexico and Brazil hold the 9th, 23rd and 17th positions respectively, with Brazil experiencing a significant jump of eight places over the last 10 years.
Editor’s note: Visit the Henley Passport Index site for a full list and ranking of all countries around the world.
The Countries With The Least Travel Freedom
Afghanistan continues to be the country with the least amount of travel freedom, coming in last place (110th rank) with a visa-free score of 26 destinations. Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen have access to slightly more visa-free travel, but still linger at the bottom of the overall ranking.
|Rank (2021)||Country||Visa-Free Score (2021)||Rank (2011)||Visa-Free Score (2011)|
The latest report indicates that the gap in travel freedom is now at its largest since the index began in 2006. Japanese passport holders can access 167 more destinations than citizens of Afghanistan, who can visit only 26.
The Biggest Gainers In a Decade
Over time, small annual moves in the Henley Passport Index can make a big impact—and in the last decade, countries like China and the UAE have been the biggest movers:
China has risen by 22 places in the ranking since 2011 by going from a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 40 destinations to now 77.
The most remarkable turnaround story on the index by far, however, is the UAE. In 2011, the UAE was ranked 65th with a visa-free score of 67 destinations. Today, thanks to the Emirates’ ongoing efforts to strengthen diplomatic ties with countries across the globe, it is now ranked 15th with a remarkable visa-free score of 174 destinations.
The World’s Biggest Real Estate Bubbles in 2021
According to UBS, there are nine real estate markets that are in bubble territory with prices rising to unsustainable levels.
Ranked: The World’s Biggest Real Estate Bubbles in 2021
Identifying real estate bubbles is a tricky business. After all, even though many of us “know a bubble when we see it”, we don’t have tangible proof of a bubble until it actually bursts.
And by then, it’s too late.
The map above, based on data from the Real Estate Bubble Index by UBS, serves as an early warning system, evaluating 25 global cities and scoring them based on their bubble risk.
Reading the Signs
Bubbles are hard to distinguish in real-time as investors must judge whether a market’s pricing accurately reflects what will happen in the future. Even so, there are some signs to watch out for.
As one example, a decoupling of prices from local incomes and rents is a common red flag. As well, imbalances in the real economy, such as excessive construction activity and lending can signal a bubble in the making.
With this in mind, which global markets are exhibiting the most bubble risk?
The Geography of Real Estate Bubbles
Europe is home to a number of cities that have extreme bubble risk, with Frankfurt topping the list this year. Germany’s financial hub has seen real home prices rise by 10% per year on average since 2016—the highest rate of all cities evaluated.
Two Canadian cities also find themselves in bubble territory: Toronto and Vancouver. In the former, nearly 30% of purchases in 2021 went to buyers with multiple properties, showing that real estate investment is alive and well. Despite efforts to cool down these hot urban markets, Canadian markets have rebounded and continued their march upward. In fact, over the past three decades, residential home prices in Canada grew at the fastest rates in the G7.
Despite civil unrest and unease over new policies, Hong Kong still has the second highest score in this index. Meanwhile, Dubai is listed as “undervalued” and is the only city in the index with a negative score. Residential prices have trended down for the past six years and are now down nearly 40% from 2014 levels.
Note: The Real Estate Bubble Index does not currently include cities in Mainland China.
Trending Ever Upward
Overheated markets are nothing new, though the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the dynamic of real estate markets.
For years, house price appreciation in city centers was all but guaranteed as construction boomed and people were eager to live an urban lifestyle. Remote work options and office downsizing is changing the value equation for many, and as a result, housing prices in non-urban areas increased faster than in cities for the first time since the 1990s.
Even so, these changing priorities haven’t deflated the real estate market in the world’s global cities. Below are growth rates for 2021 so far, and how that compares to the last five years.
Overall, prices have been trending upward almost everywhere. All but four of the cities above—Milan, Paris, New York, and San Francisco—have had positive growth year-on-year.
Even as real estate bubbles continue to grow, there is an element of uncertainty. Debt-to-income ratios continue to rise, and lending standards, which were relaxed during the pandemic, are tightening once again. Add in the societal shifts occurring right now, and predicting the future of these markets becomes more difficult.
In the short term, we may see what UBS calls “the era of urban outperformance” come to an end.
The World’s 100 Most Valuable Brands in 2021
COVID-19 hit the global economy hard, but some companies thrived amidst the chaos. Here are the top 100 most valuable brands of 2021.
The World’s Top 100 Most Valuable Brands in 2021
In 2020, the global economy experienced one of the worst declines since the Great Depression.
Yet, while the ripple effects of COVID-19 have thrown many businesses into disarray, some companies have not only managed to stay afloat amidst the chaos—they’ve thrived. Using data from Kantar BrandZ, this graphic looks at the top 100 most valuable brands of 2021.
Each year, research group Kantar BrandZ ranks companies based on their “brand value,” which is measured by:
- A brand’s total financial value, which is the financial contribution that brand brings to its parent company ($ value).
- Multiplied by its proportional value, measured by the brands proportional impact on its parent company’s sales (% value).
The financial results are then combined with quantitative survey data, sourced from over 170,000 global consumers. The end result is a holistic look at a company’s brand equity, reputation, and ability to generate value.
The total value of 2021’s Top 100 brands grew by 42%, reaching a combined $7 trillion. At the top of the list, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Amazon, with a total brand value of $683 billion.
|Rank||Brand||Brand Value |
|Category||Brand Value %
change from 2020
|1||Amazon||$683.85||Consumer Goods & Retail||64%|
|3||$458.00||Media & Entertainment||42%|
|4||Microsoft||$410.27||Business Solutions & Tech Providers||26%|
|5||Tencent||$240.93||Media & Entertainment||60%|
|6||$226.74||Media & Entertainment||54%|
|7||Alibaba||$196.91||Consumer Goods & Retail||29%|
|9||McDonald's||$154.92||Food & Beverages||20%|
|11||Moutai||$109.33||Food & Beverages||103%|
|12||Nvidia||$104.76||Business Solutions & Tech Providers||n/a|
|15||IBM||$91.34||Business Solutions & Tech Providers||9%|
|16||Coca-Cola||$87.60||Food & Beverages||4%|
|17||Nike||$83.71||Consumer Goods & Retail||68%|
|18||$82.90||Media & Entertainment||100%|
|20||Adobe||$78.52||Business Solutions & Tech Providers||n/a|
|21||Louis Vuitton||$75.73||Consumer Goods & Retail||46%|
|23||Intel||$71.94||Business Solutions & Tech Providers||n/a|
|24||Netflix||$71.13||Media & Entertainment||55%|
|25||The Home Depot||$70.52||Consumer Goods & Retail||22%|
|26||SAP||$69.24||Business Solutions & Tech Providers||20%|
|27||Accenture||$64.73||Business Solutions & Tech Providers||n/a|
|28||Oracle||$60.84||Business Solutions & Tech Providers||n/a|
|29||Starbucks||$60.27||Food & Beverages||26%|
|30||Walmart||$59.52||Consumer Goods & Retail||30%|
|32||Marlboro||$57.01||Consumer Goods & Retail||-2%|
|33||Disney||$55.22||Media & Entertainment||13%|
|35||Texas Instruments||$49.24||Business Solutions & Tech Providers||n/a|
|36||Salesforce||$48.98||Business Solutions & Tech Providers||61%|
|37||Qualcomm||$48.36||Business Solutions & Tech Providers||n/a|
|39||YouTube||$47.10||Media & Entertainment||39%|
|40||Chanel||$47.05||Consumer Goods & Retail||30%|
|41||Cisco||$46.82||Business Solutions & Tech Providers||n/a|
|43||Hermès||$46.40||Consumer Goods & Retail||40%|
|44||JD||$44.52||Consumer Goods & Retail||75%|
|45||TikTok||$43.52||Media & Entertainment||158%|
|46||Deutsche Telekom||$43.10||Telecom Providers||16%|
|47||Tesla||$42.61||Cars & Transportation||275%|
|48||L'Oréal Paris||$38.31||Consumer Goods & Retail||30%|
|52||Zoom||$36.93||Business Solutions & Tech Providers||n/a|
|53||Intuit||$35.87||Business Solutions & Tech Providers||n/a|
|54||$35.52||Media & Entertainment||19%|
|55||Costco||$35.14||Consumer Goods & Retail||23%|
|56||Gucci||$33.84||Consumer Goods & Retail||24%|
|57||AMD||$32.92||Business Solutions & Tech Providers||n/a|
|58||Tata Consulting Services||$31.28||Business Solutions & Tech Providers||n/a|
|61||American Express||$28.58||Financial Services||-3%|
|62||Wells Fargo||$28.00||Financial Services||-8%|
|64||Toyota||$26.97||Cars & Transportation||-5%|
|66||HDFC Bank||$26.37||Financial Services||27%|
|67||Mercedes-Benz||$25.84||Cars & Transportation||21%|
|68||China Mobile||$25.82||Telecom Providers||-25%|
|69||Budweiser||$25.55||Food & Beverages||5%|
|71||BMW||$24.82||Cars & Transportation||21%|
|72||Dell Technologies||$24.78||Business Solutions & Tech Providers||36%|
|74||J.P. Morgan||$24.11||Financial Services||37%|
|77||Baidu||$23.36||Media & Entertainment||57%|
|78||Uber||$22.41||Cars & Transportation||41%|
|79||Adidas||$22.34||Consumer Goods & Retail||51%|
|81||Pinduoduo||$21.73||Consumer Goods & Retail||131%|
|82||Snapchat||$21.61||Media & Entertainment||n/a|
|83||Zara||$21.38||Consumer Goods & Retail||0%|
|84||Ikea||$21.02||Consumer Goods & Retail||17%|
|86||Lowe's||$20.67||Consumer Goods & Retail||51%|
|89||Autodesk||$20.45||Business Solutions & Tech Providers||n/a|
|93||Didi Chuxing||$20.04||Cars & Transportation||0%|
|94||China Construction Bank||$19.78||Financial Services||-6%|
|95||Pampers||$19.62||Consumer Goods & Retail||6%|
|96||KE||$19.50||Consumer Goods & Retail||n/a|
|97||Commonwealth Bank||$19.47||Financial Services||48%|
|98||Bank of America||$19.32||Financial Services||14%|
|99||Spotify||$19.28||Media & Entertainment||n/a|
|100||Colgate||$18.89||Consumer Goods & Retail||8%|
It’s the third consecutive year that Amazon has placed first on the list. Since last year’s ranking, the ecommerce brand has seen its value grow by 64%. Keep in mind, this accounts for all areas of Amazon’s business, including its web and subscription services.
Second on the list is Apple with a brand value of $612 billion. Apple wasn’t completely immune to the impacts of COVID-19—in the early days of the pandemic, its stock dipped almost 19% from record highs—but the company recovered and reported record-breaking revenue, generating $64.7 billion in Q4 2020.
It’s fitting that the top brands on the list are big tech companies since the pandemic pushed consumers online for both their shopping and entertainment needs. A few social media platforms placed high on the list as well, like Facebook, which rose two ranks this year to score the sixth spot with a brand value of $227 billion.
Instagram and TikTok trailed behind Facebook when it came to total brand value, but both platforms saw exceptional growth compared to last year’s report. In fact, when looking at brand value growth from 2020, both brands scored a spot in the top 10.
Insights into Brand Value Growth
The most valuable brand report has been ranking companies for over a decade, and some overarching factors have stood out as key contributors to brand value growth:
1. The Big Get Bigger
Starting “strong” can give brands an edge. This is because growth rate is closely correlated with high brand equity. In other words, a strong brand will likely see more growth than a weaker brand, which might explain why companies like Amazon and Apple have been able to hold their place at the top for several consecutive years.
Keep in mind, this doesn’t account for industry disruptors. An innovative company could come out of the woodwork next year and give the Big Tech giants a run for their money.
2. Marketing Makes a Difference
The right strategy can make a difference, and even smaller brands can make a splash if the message is impactful. Brands with emotional associations, like pride or popularity, tend to see that translate into brand value growth.
Companies like Nike and Coca-Cola have mastered the art of emotional advertising. For instance, in May last year, Nike released a video urging consumers to stand up for equality, in a video titled, “For Once, Just Don’t Do It.”
3. Smart Investment
It’s not just about developing an effective marketing strategy, it’s about executing that strategy, and continually investing in ways that perpetuate your brand message.
For instance, innovation is the core value of Tesla’s brand, and the electric car company walks the walk—in 2020, the company spent $1.5 billion on R&D.
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