Skift Take

Today's edition of Skift's daily podcast looks closer at global passport power, United’s Asian play, and Thailand’s Middle Eastern ambitions.

Series: Skift Daily Briefing

Skift Daily Briefing Podcast

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Good morning from Skift. It’s Wednesday, July 19. Here’s what you need to know about the business of travel today.

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Episode Notes

Singapore has overtaken Japan as the country with the world’s most powerful passport while the U.S. dropped two spots in recently released rankings, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy.

Citizens of Singapore have visa-free access to 190 destinations, according to the Henley Passport Index. The Index ranks the world’s passports by the number of destinations their holders can travel to without needing a visa. The U.S. passport is now tied with Lithuania for the world’s 8th most powerful, providing visa-free access to 184 destinations. 

Brophy notes the U.S. has seen a decade-long decline in passport power. A U.S. passport currently provides visa-free access to 12 more destinations than it did in 2013. Meanwhile, a Singaporean passport has obtained visa-free access to 25 more destinations over the past 10 years. 

Next, United Airlines is moving to take advantage of the Asia-Pacific region’s booming travel demand. The Chicago-based carrier unveiled on Tuesday three new routes serving the region, writes Reporter Jess Wade. 

Wade reports those routes will include direct flights from San Francisco to Manila as well from Los Angeles to Hong Kong and Tokyo-Narita. United will also become the only U.S. airline to fly nonstop to Manila. A company executive said demand for transpacific travel is as strong, if not stronger, than transatlantic travel. Wade notes that the new routes, which start service in October, will result in United’s transpacific network being 50% larger than all other U.S. airlines combined. 

Finally, Thailand is increasingly targeting the Middle East as a major source market for tourism. Thai authorities aim to attract 400,000 visitors from the region this year, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia in Skift’s Middle East Travel Roundup.

Bhutia writes Saudi Arabia is expected to surpass the United Arab Emirates as Thailand’s largest market. Thailand anticipates welcoming 150,000 visitors from Saudi Arabia this year following the resumption of direct flights between the two countries. Saudi Arabia accounted for a little more than a quarter of the visitors from the Middle East to Thailand in the first half of 2023. 

A Thai official said flight schedules between Thailand and the Middle East are currently 80% of pre-Covid levels. The Thai push to increase visitor numbers from the Middle East comes as Thailand expects tourist numbers from China, a major market for the country, to fall short of projections.   

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Tags: asia pacific, japan, passports, saudi arabia, singapore, skift podcast, thailand, united airlines

Photo credit: Tourists pose for a selfie in Singapore. Dan Peltier / Skift

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