Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): tourism and hospitality sector

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

Coronavirus (COVID-19): tourism and hospitality sector
Overview and current context

Overview and current context

Additional steps to slow the spread of the dominant Omicron variant were announced on 21 December, and on 23 December in respect of night clubs.

This guidance update relates to the elements of this package that impact on the tourism and hospitality sectors, which take effect from 26 (live events) and 27 December 2021, and will be reviewed after three weeks. It should be read in conjunction with updated guidance for Safer Workplaces, which contains information on the wider mandatory and advisory protection measures, alongside advice and resources on risk management.

As with earlier guidance updates, it is necessary for businesses operating in the tourism and hospitality sector to review their risk assessment in line with the latest requirements and advice.  In particular, revised risk assessments will need to ensure that settings that serve alcohol for consumption on the premises, or where alcohol is consumed on the premises:

  • only offer table/at seat service. This means there should be no standing at bar areas/vertical drinking. Full table service should be carried out where reasonably practicable, however where this is not practical drinks may be served at bar areas where there is a clear queuing system with appropriate distancing and the food/drink is consumed at a table/when seated.  This may include bar seating if managed with safe distancing, appropriate hygiene controls and not obstructing any order points leading to crowding. Buffet service may also be offered where there is appropriate distanced queue management. Premises should revisit the adaptations deployed in earlier phases where table/at seat service was a requirement and use these as necessary. Games/gaming tables/gaming machines may still be used/take place in premises with appropriate distancing, face coverings and hygiene controls, but all food and drink must be consumed while seated.
  • observe 1 metre physical distancing between groups.  The strong advice is that people should not meet in groups of more than three households.  In most instances this will mean ensuring 1 metre distancing between tables.  It will also mean that, with the exception of wedding receptions, dancing will not be possible due to the likelihood of households mixing in large numbers.

At seat service and 1 metre physical distancing is required by regulations. 

Night clubs must close from 27 December 2021. They have the option of adapting their business model and staying open without dancing – but table/at seat service and 1 metre physical distancing between groups would need to be in place. We are engaging with the sector to discuss a package of support.

Larger premises such as hotels and large clubs who are planning to host large events, should refer to the new requirements limiting attendance at large events as this may impact on the ability of such events to proceed. The limits, which apply from 26 December 2021, are up to 100 people for indoor standing events, up to 200 people for indoor seated events, and up to 500 people for all outdoor events seated or standing.  

Weddings, civil partnerships and funerals are not affected by the changes announced. These events, and their associated receptions and gatherings, can go ahead as planned, as set out in guidance on staying safe and protecting others. The exemptions for weddings, civil partnerships, funerals and their associated receptions and gatherings do not apply to services provided by venues for other life events such as anniversary celebrations and birthday parties. The advice is that these should be postponed until a later date.

Tourist accommodation and attractions

Also from 27 December, tourist accommodation (including hotels, hostels, boarding or guest houses, members clubs and bed and breakfast accommodation providers,) and indoor tourist attractions will be required to:

  • implement one metre physical distancing between groups of customers in tourist accommodation and indoor tourist attractions. Business and premises should bear in mind that this may impact their capacity limit. Current guidance advises customers to limit their groups to a maximum of three households.

Implement table service for food and drink in tourism accommodation and indoor attractions where alcohol is sold for consumption, or consumed, on the premises. Ordering at a bar is permitted if table service is not practical in the premises. In this case, a queuing system with physical distancing should be in place and customers must return to their table to consume any food or drink. Buffet service may also be offered with appropriate distanced queue management. service does not apply where alcohol is not served or consumed on the premises. 

Self-catering/exclusive use accommodation is not included in the requirement to implement physical distancing. 

A group is defined as two or more members of the same household, or of a group formed of more than one household attending the premises together.  The strong advice is that people should not meet in groups of more than three households. Accommodation providers should take reasonable measures to ensure physical distancing between self-defined groups in spaces such as shared dining areas, lounges, shared kitchens, hallways/entrance areas and in the case of hostels - shared dormitory rooms. 

In addition to the above, premises in the tourism and hospitality sector should continue to observe ongoing baseline measures, such as wearing of face coverings when not seated in hospitality, recording customer contact details and observing good hygiene practices throughout premises. 


Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

First published: 16 Dec 2021 Last updated: 5 Jan 2022 -