Industry figures have criticised Sir Michael Lyons for attempting to play down the importance of bed tax proposals in the debate on local government funding.
At a conference in central London last week, which marked the closing date for submissions to the Lyons inquiry, Lyons said finding new ways of funding local government were unavoidable.
"We can't kid ourselves - we can't improve the infrastructure of this country without finding a way of paying for it," he told delegates. "We mustn't shrink from the difficult issues."
Lyons was asked questions on the bed tax proposal - that would add 5-10% to the cost of an overnight stay - and insisted it was just one part of a wider debate.
Bob Cotton, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, responded angrily. "It is quite insulting that he thinks bed tax is a side issue," he said. "He clearly misunderstands the tourism industry and is irritated by us."
The view was echoed by Travelodge chief executive Grant Hearn, who said the Local Government Association "still completely failed to understand how to take advantage of tourism in order to boost local economic development".
Former CBI director-general Sir Digby Jones questioned why local authorities should punish successful businesses.
"As a past president of the Tourism Alliance, I have seen local authorities driving that industry forward," he said.
"The question they have to ask themselves is: do they tap into that success and say ‘let's have a bed tax'? Some consumers might not care, but others might take their business abroad - damaging the local economy."