Tourism chief angers industry figures by saying hotels should make the most of demand from visitors by hiking up their prices to maximise income.
HOTEL operators and guesthouse owners across Scotland have been told to raise prices during peak periods to cash in on demand from visitors.
VisitScotland`s chairman, Peter Lederer, said accommodation providers who found themselves booked up months in advance should do all they can to maximise income.
And he has called for tourism workers to stop apologising for the cost of a visit to Scotland and instead talk up the value for money on offer.
However Mr Lederer, the chairman of Gleneagles Hotel, was criticised by industry figures and politicians who feared the impact his message may have on Scotland`s reputation.
Critics warned visitors may be put off returning to the country if they believed prices had been increased in the peak season or to coincide with major events, like golf competitions, rugby internationals or festivals.
Mr Lederer was speaking out at VisitScotland`s annual meeting in Edinburgh, when he also warned that the industry was being let down by rubbish-strewn roads, inconsistent service and a culture of complaining about the weather.
He said industry representatives should be working harder to boost business in quieter months through outdoor activities, festivals and events.
Mr Lederer said everyone in the industry had a part to play in boosting income generated by Scotland`s tourism by 50 per cent by 2015.
"I`ve just come back from a visit to the Outer Hebrides where they have a very strong six months of the year and the rest of the year is very quiet," he said.
"Some businesses there are already booked up for next summer and when I heard what some of them were charging, I told them I thought they weren`t charging enough. If you are booked up so far in advance, as a good business you need to be looking to maximise income.
"We have to think about the whole experience people are getting. People are often happy to pay more and it`s about offering them value for money. There is still a culture of people in the industry apologising for the cost of accommodation and travel. There is a perception that Scotland is an expensive place to visit but that`s not the reality.
"It all depends on the experience people have when they are here, the quality of their accommodation and the service they have had."
Mr Lederer said Scots should "take more pride in our country in general", picking out the need to improve the cleanliness of streets and motorway verges.
"We need to address the whole culture of people throwing rubbish out of car windows and emptying ashtrays by the side of roads," he said.
"The level of service is improving across the country but it is still too inconsistent and we`re still way behind countries like Austria and Switzerland."
But David Hinnrichs, the head of the Edinburgh Hotel and Guesthouse Association and owner of the Allison Guesthouse in the city, said: "I don`t agree with what Peter Lederer is saying at all.
"What you normally find across the industry is that hotels and guesthouses have a top rate, that they occasionally discount during quieter periods.
"Our top rate is £110 for a room and we don`t go above that for events like the Fringe or rugby internationals."
"We`re always keen to attract people back here for a return visit and you won`t do that by ripping them off.
"It`s well known in the industry that Scotland is perceived as an expensive place to visit and I think it sends out the wrong message to say this to businesses.
"We may be going through quite a good period at the moment, but no-one knows what is around the corner, in terms of the economy and the strength of the dollar."