On 10 June 2020, the Scottish Government announced a provisional date for the re-opening of the Scottish tourism sector. Businesses are encouraged to prepare to open their doors and welcome guests from 15 July 2020 (provisional date). So, it looks like Scotland is re-opening for tourism – but what does that mean in terms of actually visiting Scotland?
UPDATE: 25 June 2020
VisitScotland, in partnership with Tourism Northern Ireland, VisitEngland and VisitWales, has launched the ‘We’re Good To Go’ industry standard and supporting mark. It signals that a tourism or hospitality business is following government and industry guidelines regarding COVID-19. Businesses have to apply and go through a specifically designed risk assessment process before they can use the mark on their website and social media.
Look for the ‘We’re Good To Go’ mark when booking any upcoming trips to Scotland.
Businesses can apply for the mark for free and go through the self-assessment on goodtogoscotland.com.
Many organisations such as Wild Scotland, ASVA, Sail Scotland and ASSC have contributed input to this new initiative and I expect many businesses to go through the process.
UPDATE: 24 June 2020
A new update has been made by the Scottish Government today (24 June 2020, see here)! In addition to non-essential shops with street access re-opening on 29 June, there are new dates for relaxation of rules within Phase 2, and also more provisional dates for a staged launch of Phase 3.
Below are some of the key changes outlined in the update (with a focus on travel activities). They include great news for local leisure activities, accommodation providers, hospitality businesses (restaurants and pubs) and more. This means, that local and domestic tourism can prepare to re-open as planned, however, these relaxations do not currently have an impact on international tourism.
From Friday, 3 July 2020 (Phase 2):
- Travel distance restrictions will be relaxed (goodbye, 5-mile rule!) – presumably still advised sticking to local regions.
- Self-catering accommodations can reopen and can welcome guests again.
From Monday, 6 July 2020 (Phase 2)
- Outdoor hospitality can reopen (with continued physical distancing measures) – hello, beer gardens!
From Friday, 10 July 2020 (Phase 3):
- People can meet outdoors in extended groups (with continued physical distancing measures).
- Up to 3 households can meet indoors (with continued physical distancing measures).
From Monday, 13 July 2020 (Phase 3):
- Non-essential shops inside shopping centres and malls can re-open.
From Wednesday, 15 July 2020 (Phase 3):
- All holiday accommodation can re-open.
- Indoor hospitality can re-open (with continued physical distancing measures).
- Museums, galleries, cinemas, libraries and monuments can reopen (with continued physical distancing measures).
Continued Phase 3 relaxations will be reviewed on Thursday, 9 July 2020 and are unlikely to come into place before Thursday, 23 July 2020. This review will include guidance regarding indoor and outdoor live events, indoor entertainment venues and other areas (mostly relevant for locals, not visitors).
Keep in mind, that just because accommodation providers, attractions and hospitality businesses may re-open along the guidelines outlined above, some might not re-open immediately for a variety of reasons. Make sure you check in with the places you’d like to visit and respect their timelines.
UPDATE: 18 June 2020
Today (18 June 2020), the Scottish Government announced further relaxation of the lockdown restrictions (see here). However, Scotland is not yet proceeding to Phase 2, like many of us had expected (or hoped) after last week’s announcement. Instead, Scotland is entering a Phase 1.5 where some restrictions are lifted, while others remain in place until further scientific evidence is gained. As such, Phase 2 will be introduced in stages.
Below are some of the key changes that apply in this initial stage of Phase 2. There are no immediate implications for local, domestic or international tourism.
From Friday, 19 June 2020 you can:
- Meet with up to 2 households outside, maintain social distancing, max. 8 people
- Use another households toilet indoors if you meet them outside.
Continue to stay local – don’t travel further than 5 miles for leisure. You may, however, travel further to visit close family.
Pubs and restaurants will not be able to open their beer gardens until further notice.
From Monday, 22 June 2020:
- Face coverings are mandatory on public transport.
From Monday, 29 June 2020:
- Non-essential shops with street-access can re-open. Shops in shopping centres and malls that can only be entered through the shared indoor area remain closed.
- Outdoor markets can re-open.
- Zoos and garden attractions can open for local access only (broadly within 5 miles).
Image source: Scottish Government route map update, 18 June 2020, see p. 5 for this overview.
11 June 2020
After 10 weeks of lockdown, Scotland took its first steps towards re-opening its economy on 29 May 2020. After publishing a transparent route map “through and out of the crisis”, the country entered Phase 1 of its phased approach to re-opening and started to lift certain restrictions with regards to super-local travel, use of public outdoor spaces and meetings between different households.
The government will re-evaluate the situation every three weeks and decide whether the country can move on to the next phase.
Phase 2 will see further lifts with regards to how many people can meet to socialise and where (indoor/outdoor), what amount of driving and use of public transport is considered reasonable, which shops, restaurants and pubs can re-open and more.
But for the tourism sector, it only really gets interesting with Phase 3. When people can drive beyond their local area for leisure, public transport will be operating on full capacity, pubs and restaurants can open their indoor spaces, restrictions for accommodation providers will be relaxed and tourist attractions may re-open.
The full route map with details what is allowed in which phase can be found here.
The beginning of Phase 3
The initial publication of the route map did not state a specific timeline for the phased approach. On 10 June 2020, the Scottish Government announced a provisional date for the beginning of Phase 3: 15 July 2020.
Based on these dates, the Scottish Tourism secretary Fergus Ewing has published a statement addressing what this means for the tourism sector:
Businesses should start to prepare for a provisional return to trading – with appropriate safety guidelines – on 15 July 2020.
This date cannot be definitive and is conditional on public health advice and progression to Phase 3 of the route map.
Businesses must now use this time to satisfy the necessary regulations and adapt to the new way of living.
Read more here.
It is important to emphasise that this date is not carved in stone, but is a provisional date that may change if public health concerns change.
However, it is a good sign and a relief for many in the tourism sector, as well as those who planned to visit Scotland this summer. Tourism businesses are told to prepare for re-opening on 15 July 2020 and take the necessary steps to do so safely. This includes accommodation providers, tourist attractions, tour operators and activity providers.
Of course, all these businesses have to adhere to public health advice, particularly with regards to making social distancing possible and increased hygiene guidelines. This means that some businesses might not be able to re-open in the same capacity as before, but at least it begins the process.
Travelling to the UK from abroad
Another thing that is important to keep in mind is that the UK currently requires every resident and visitor travelling to the UK (i.e. crossing the UK border) to self-isolate for 14 days. Refusing to do so, will incur significant fees.
That means that even though travel restrictions within Scotland will be relaxed in Phase 3, this for now only affects those who are already in the UK.
It will take more time to re-open the tourism sector for non-residents and international visitors.
How to keep up to date
The general guidelines apply to all businesses across the Scottish tourism sector. However, the reality is that many businesses will have their own route maps and plans in place that are tailored to their specific perspective.
As I mentioned, some tourism businesses might not be able to re-open right away, others might have to amend their services in order to comply with social distancing regulations, and so on.
Here are some of the key organisations and networks to check in with on a regular basis:
- VisitScotland: The Scottish destination marketing office. They regularly post updates relevant to the tourism sector.
- National Trust for Scotland: An organisation that looks after numerous historic and natural sites around Scotland, such as Culloden, Craigievar Castle and the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. They have published their plans for re-opening their properties here.
- Historic Environment Scotland: A public body that manages and maintains historic sites all over Scotland such as Edinburgh Castle, Melrose Abbey and Calanais Standing Stones. They have published their 2020-21 action plan here.
- The Scottish Tourism Alliance: The representative body for the Scottish tourism industry. They engage with over 70% of tourism businesses in Scotland and post updates that are relevant to the entire sector.
- The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers: An organisation that supports self-catering accommodation providers in Scotland. Good to check their updates if you are interested in renting self-catering accommodation for your trip.
- Calmac and Nothlink Ferries: The two major ferry operators in Scotland, which post essential updates about travelling to and from the islands.
- Scotrail: The leading train operator in Scotland.
- With regards to outdoor activities and access to mountain trails, I recommend checking updates from Mountaineering Scotland, Scottish Mountain Rescue and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. As well as individual activity providers you might want to book with.
- Wild Scotland: A representative body for adventure and nature tourism operators in Scotland. They provide excellent guidelines for outdoor activities around the country.
- And of course, also the Scottish Government, which has been extremely transparent throughout this process. They regularly publish updates in clear and easy-to-understand language.
Your Scotland travel plans from Phase 3
So, what does all this mean for your future travel plans to visit Scotland?
Once Phase 3 begins – provisionally from 15 July 2020…
If you are a resident and you are currently in Scotland, you should be able to:
- leave your local area for leisure (by car or public transport),
- stay in accommodation,
- eat out at restaurants,
- visit attractions and sites
- and book activities.
In terms of destinations, you might want to consider places to visit on the mainland as islands might have reservations towards opening up too soon.
If you live elsewhere in the UK and would like to travel to Scotland, you…
I’m honestly not quite sure.
I will investigate and update clear information/guidelines for visitors from England, Wales and Northern Ireland as soon as possible.
If you live outside the UK and want to visit Scotland, you may do so, as long as you adhere to the rules around entering the UK.
This includes providing an address and contact information (to facilitate contact tracing) and self-isolating in the UK for 14 days.
However, I appreciate that this is not a feasible option for most international visitors. Especially if you consider that you might have to self-isolate again in your home country upon returning from the UK. Who has this many vacation days?
I hope you find this post useful. If you have any further questions, drop them in the comments below, so that everyone can benefit from the responses.
Let’s all hope that Phase 3 can begin on 15 July 2020 according to plan, and the tourism sector will be able to regain momentum as quickly as possible.
Thanks for reading!