As travel restrictions ease and tourism hospitality and retail sectors gradually open up again, businesses and local communities across Scotland are grappling with numerous challenges - from anticipating demand, staffing and supply chain issues to managing social distancing and contact tracing requirements.
With last summer's experience to learn from and more time to plan ahead it is hoped that the transition should be easier this time, allowing more businesses to benefit from the opportunities afforded by outings and "staycations" whilst managing risks and disruption for local communities.
Visitors also need to act responsibly and considerately in exercising their renewed freedoms without adversely impacting upon fragile local communities and others.
Increased demand will be welcomed by many businesses in the sector but many small, rural communities, whether ill-prepared due to uncertainties around lockdown restrictions or lacking infrastructure, struggled to cope with the sudden influx of visitors last summer. Sustainable tourism that works alongside other business sectors and enhances, rather than damages, local communities (whether rural or urban) is the challenge.
We all have our part to play in achieving that, including visitors, even if just by planning ahead - booking a place to stay before leaving home or having an alternative "plan B" if our preferred destination is too busy and by taking home our waste and leaving no trace - other than our contact details for "track and trace"!
Contact tracing requirements
Hospitality businesses are still obliged to collect customer (as well as staff) details to share with public health officials if required for contact tracing. Details must be obtained from customers to whom food and drink is to be served on the premises (whether indoors or outdoors but not take-away) and the recommendation is to request details from all customers in a group, not just the person making a booking.
Basic contact details required, which should be requested at time of booking or on arrival at the premises, are: name, contact telephone number (or alternatively a postal or e-mail address), date of arrival and departure, and larger premises are encouraged also to record where customers are seated. That information should be recorded by a designated member of staff (rather than asking the customer to fill in a register on arrival themselves, to reduce transmission risk).
Businesses are asked to encourage customers to provide such information and should refuse to serve customers who fail to provide the requisite information so staff may need to be trained in how to deal with that. If requested by NHS Scotland Test & Protect service, businesses must share information of staff and customers as soon as possible and within 24 hours.
It is important to explain to customers (by publishing a privacy notice) why the information is required, for what purpose it will be used and to ensure that information is collected, stored, used and ultimately disposed of, in a way that is compliant with data protection legislation (and if a business is not already registered with the Information Commissioner's Office it may need to register).
These records are required to be kept for at least 21 days after which (subject to any other legal requirement to retain or pass on that information to public health officials) they should be disposed of securely. Such information must not be used for other purposes (e.g. marketing). (Public health officials or NHS Scotland may keep the information for longer or share it with other bodies such as local authorities).
Social distancing rules have not changed, although businesses are now also being asked to display a notice of their maximum capacity (taking account of physical distancing).
The Scottish Government has published detailed guidance for the sector and its various sub-sectors (from hotels to self-catering accommodation and holiday parks, restaurants and bars to coffee shops and takeaways, adventure activities to bingo) including procedures for staff and customer safety such as cleaning protocols and operations checklist - see: Coronavirus (COVID-19): tourism and hospitality sector guidance - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
That is supplemented by guidance from trade bodies and other organisations. It has also published guidance for customers explaining what to expect Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for retail, tourism and hospitality customers - gov.scot (www.gov.scot).
Get in touch – we're here to help
For further advice on these and other business legal requirements for contact: Fiona Neilson (Corporate Partner) [email protected]