Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): tourism and hospitality sector guidance

Guidance for the tourism and hospitality sector, including procedures for staff and customer safety and an operations checklist.


This guidance is for the tourism and hospitality sectors in Scotland,and for other public venues able to reopen to the public from 24 August. It remains in effect until further notice. It will be reviewed in line with the regular three-weekly review of lockdown requirements.   

We have worked with industry and trade unions to ensure that this guidance is evidence-based, fair and ethical, clear and realistic. We welcome the extensive work that organisations, trade bodies, industry groups and individual businesses have already undertaken. This work enables them to plan ahead for safe workplaces through practical measures and guidelines aimed at ensuring the safety of staff, customers and the public is at the centre of operational plans for re-opening of these sectors. Stakeholders and trade bodies should review their material regularly against the latest Scottish Government guidance to ensure it is compliant with the core requirements.

The sectors covered by this guidance are diverse with broad reach across Scotland’s economic landscape, encompassing many thousands of businesses of varying models and size. It is therefore necessary for this guidance to take a strategic approach, but it is designed for use by:

  • all accommodation providers (hotels, B&Bs, self-catering, caravan/holiday parks etc. )
  • visitor attractions
  • marine and adventure tourism
  • other activity or experience tourism operations/centres
  • tour operators
  • pubs and restaurants
  • retail aspects of tourism
  • natural spaces insofar as they relate to tourism, such as the National Parks
  • funfairs and amusement parks (static and mobile)
  • licensed bingo clubs
  • casinos
  • guided walking tours

To help you decide which actions to take, you need to carry out an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment, just as you would for other health and safety related hazards. The checklist provided should help you get started. This risk assessment should be undertaken in consultation with trade unions or workforce representatives where relevant. The key areas that you need to consider are outlined in each of the sections.

Many operators are members of trade bodies who, in turn, have developed helpful guidelines for their sectors to coordinate effort to help businesses be ready for re-opening.. We have worked with the leading trade bodies and operators across the tourism and hospitality sector to link this work to Scottish Government guidance. You will find links to this in the section ‘Industry Guidance’. We will continue to work in partnership with industry and unions, as the need arises, in order to update our guidance and in turn enable industry guidelines and practice to be adapted to keep pace.

This document is one of a set about how to work safely in different types of workplace. It is designed to be relevant for people who work in or run businesses connected with tourism,hospitality and other venues, as noted above. We have also published guidance for the events sector and for museums, galleries and heritage attractions, though there will be some read-across.

This guidance should be applied to each business. You will need to translate this into the specific actions you need to take depending on the nature of your business (i.e. the size and type of business, how it is organised, operated, managed and regulated) using this document as a guide.

We have also published guidance for transport. Please refer to this for related business interests.

Publication of this guidance does not signal an immediate change in Scotland’s lockdown policy. Whether and when restrictions can be changed will be considered on a range of evidence on the progress of the pandemic in Scotland using the principles set out in Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making and our long-established commitment to fair work, which was set in the context of the current crisis in a joint statement with the STUC (which we have taken into account when developing this guidance). Changes will then be made in line with Scotland’s route-map through and out of the crisis. 

Where we are now

The First Minister announced that Scotland would be entering a lockdown on 23 March 2020. Under law, the Scottish Government must review that lockdown at least every three weeks. The Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making – Scotland’s route map through and out of the crisis, was published on 21 May and sets out the phases by which we will aim to ease lockdown. They will be gradual and incremental and will be matched with careful monitoring of the virus. Most parts of the tourism and hospitality sector will resume during Phase 3, with  any remaining sectors subject to continuing review.

Regulations have been updated to clarify the definition of outdoor spaces – that being  “A structure which has open sides and an overhead covering to provide shelter from the elements counts as outdoors for the purposes of these regulations.”

Statutory guidance for the hospitality sector has been published. This should be followed by businesses operating in that sector, including within the 1 metre physical distancing exemption open to hospitality, using the resources available within this guidance to help with carrying out risk assessments.

Guidance on the collection of customer contact details by hospitality businesses has also been updated to reflect that this is now a mandatory requirement.

Guidance on the collection of customer contact details by hospitality businesses has also been updated to reflect that this is now a mandatory requirement.

The First Minister announced further measures for the hospitality sector on 22 September. The key updates for hospitality are that, from Friday 25 September:

  • pubs, restaurants and hospitality settings will be required to close at 10pm
  • table service will continue to be required in all hospitality premises

Further restrictions on household gatherings were also announced at this time. These limited households from mixing with other households in private dwellings. Self-contained holiday accommodation is within the definition of a private dwelling, and these restrictions therefore also apply to all forms of self-catering accommodation, including holiday cottages, lodges, apartments, caravans, chalets, houseboats, sailing boats etc. (NB given the range of types of self-catering accommodation available in Scotland, from tree houses and yurts to lighthouses, this list is not exhaustive.)     

On 7 October the First Minister announced further temporary measures:

Nationwide (excepting central belt areas):

  • pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes may only open indoors between 6am and 6pm, with no sales of alcohol
  • pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes may open outdoors until 10pm, with sales of alcohol (where licensed)
  • takeaways (including from pubs and restaurants) can continue
  • evening meals may be served in accommodation for residents only but no alcohol can be served
  • current meeting rules, maximum of six people from two households, continue to apply
  • specific life events, such as weddings and funerals, may continue with alcohol being served, with current meeting rules for these events (20 person limit in regulated premises only)

Central belt area focusing on five health board areas (Ayrshire & Arran; Forth Valley; Greater Glasgow & Clyde; Lanarkshire; Lothian):

  • pubs, bars and restaurants will be required to close, with the exception of takeaway services
  • cafés (licensed and unlicensed premises) will be able to open between 6am and 6pm, with no alcohol sales
  • takeaways (including from pubs and restaurants) can continue
  • evening meals may be served in accommodation for residents only but no alcohol can be served
  • specific life events, such as weddings and funerals, may continue with alcohol, with current meeting rules for these events (20 person limit in regulated premises only)
  • no group exercise classes for indoor gyms and sports courts, pools with an exemption for under 18s
  • no adult (18+) contact sports or training, except professional sports, indoor or outdoor
  • no outdoor live events
  • snooker/pool halls, indoor bowling, casinos and bingo halls are to close
  • public transport use should be minimised as much as possible, such as for education and work, where it cannot be done from home
  • current meeting rules, maximum of six people from two households, continue to apply


Physical distancing duties are set out in regulation 4(1) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020. A person who is responsible for carrying on a business or providing a service must take all reasonable measures:

  • to ensure that a distance of at least 2 metres is maintained (or 1 metre in hospitality settings) between any persons on the premises (except between two members of the same household, or a carer and the person assisted by the carer)
  • to ensure that they only admit people to the premises in sufficiently small numbers to make it possible to maintain that distance
  • to ensure that a distance of at least 2 metres is maintained between any person waiting to enter the premises (except between two members of the same household or a carer and the person assisted by the carer)

This guidance does not supersede any legal obligations relating to health and safety, employment or equalities and it is important that, as a business or an employer, you continue to comply with your existing obligations, including those relating to individuals with protected characteristics.

The regulations have been updated to reflect the move from 2m to 1m physical distancing in hospitality premises. 


We want a strong tourism and hospitality sector to help drive Scotland's economic recovery and future prosperity. Businesses should therefore use this guidance to look forward and engage with trade union or workforce representatives where necessary to develop workplace-specific plans for a managed transition away from current restrictions. Overall decisions on the phasing will continue to be made in line with our Route Map.

We have initiated a broad collaborative process to develop sectoral guidance which will underpin that managed transition and provide clarity and confidence to industry, employees and local communities, protect public health and concurrently optimise economic recovery. Aligned with that we are implementing Scotland’s Test and Protect system, and ensuring that the guidance is coherent and connected, recognising for example transport and other inter-dependencies.

We are working with the UK Government to align our approach and guidance where possible, and on the basis of scientific evidence on the levels of infection in Scotland. This guidance is intended to work alongside UK Government guidance and aims to assist employers, businesses and their workforce ensure a safe working environment and readers will recognise consistent themes within this guidance with the UK Government’s  Working Safely during COVID-19 publications.

This guidance should be read in conjunction with our business and physical distancing guidance which still applies.

Business support

There has been an unprecedented package of support announced from both the Scottish and UK Governments to support businesses. This support should help many employers preserve their business, maintain jobs and pay their workers throughout this crisis.

Information on this support, as well as advice on workplace safety and hygiene, is available through findbusinesssupport. gov. scot. We urge all businesses to make use of this where applicable. In the event of the risk of imminent closures all available support measures must be utilised to protect the jobs and incomes of Scotland’s tourism and hospitality sector.

Last updated: 8 October 2020


Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

First published: 8 Oct 2020 Last updated: 22 Oct 2020 -