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.


Guidance has been updated following the First Minister’s statement on 4 January.

This guidance is for the tourism and hospitality sectors in Scotland. It remains in effect until further notice. It will be kept under review.   

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 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 policy approach. 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 and Scotland’s Strategic Framework .

Where we are now

The First Minister announced that Scotland would be entering a lockdown on 23 March 2020. The Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making – Scotland’s route map through and out of the crisis.  On 23 October Scotland Strategic Framework was published.  This sets out the strategic approach to suppress the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while we strive to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible.

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.

Socialising rules have also been updated. These limit households from mixing with other households in various settings, including 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.)     

The Strategic Framework

All sectors are invited to look at and become familiar with this the Strategic Framework document. It is vitally important that everyone follows the rules set out in the Strategic Framework and in the levels based approach. Understanding what the implications are for your business within each of the levels 0-4 will mean you can operate your premises or facilities in a compliant manner, or close them if that is what you are required to do. Please refer to the tables in the document that relate to your sector. Cross check this with the level assigned to your local authority area and follow the rules accordingly. 

Reviews of assigned levels will be carried out weekly. Keep up to date with any changes in your area and refer back to the tables in the strategic framework to follow the corresponding rules.


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 have initiated a broad collaborative process to develop sectoral guidance which will underpin a managed transition through the current process. It will provide clarity and confidence to industry, employees and local communities, protect public health and concurrently optimise economic recovery. Aligned with that we have implementing Scotland’s Test and Protect system.

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.

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: 15 January 2021


Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

First published: 15 Jan 2021 Last updated: 20 Jan 2021 -