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 sector in Scotland. It comes into effect immediately – from 18 June 2020 - and extends 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 draft guidelines aimed at ensuring the safety of staff, customers and the public is at the centre of operational plans for re-opening of the sector. 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 tourism and hospitality sector is 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 the whole sector, including:

  • 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

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, when it is safe to do so. 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 and hospitality, 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.  At the current time most tourism and hospitality businesses should be closed unless exempted through our business and physical distancing guidance. If in doubt please refer to the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 for clarity on what is required to close.

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 are expected to resume during Phase 3, with an indicative start date of 15 July. Some sectors, such as outdoor areas for zoos and some self-contained self-catering facilities (29 June), and outdoor areas for pubs and restaurants (6 July), will open in Phase 2. Preparatory work for ensuring physical distancing and enhanced hygiene measures should be undertaken now. 

Regulations for self-catering accommodation have been updated to state that premises opening on 3 July must have no shared facilities (or none that are open) and be accessible via an external door. This will mean that any flats and tenements let as accommodation which are only accessible through an internal shared space shouldn’t open until 15 July. 

Funfairs must currently remain closed.

In addition, regulations have also 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.”


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 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 two 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 will be 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, allowing sufficient time for that joint work. Although an indicative date of 15 July has been given for Phase 3 opening, and earlier dates for some Phase 2 opening, overall decisions on the phasing of a sector wide return 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. There may be a role for businesses across Scotland to assist with the effective operation of this system and further guidance will be provided at the appropriate point.

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.


Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

First published: 23 Jul 2020 Last updated: 30 Jul 2020 -