A major parliamentary inquiry into the future growth of the Scottish tourism industry has criticised the national tourism website visitscotland.com, calling it "patently flawed and obsolete", and advocating a root and branch overhaul of Scotland's web shop window and the supply of free software to tourism businesses.

The inquiry, which was chaired by the Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott, was intended to answer the question: Can we achieve a 50% growth in tourist revenue by 2015?

That target was jointly agreed in 2006 by the then Scottish Executive and the private-sector Scottish Tourism Forum. It has since come under increasing scrutiny as competition and economic changes have caused industry leaders to question whether such a significant increase was a target or an "aspiration".

Controversy about the tourism website, established by the former enterprise minister Wendy Alexander, and run by the Livingston-based eTourism Ltd, has been a persistent barrier to unity within the £4.1 billion tourism sector for several years. The company is largely controlled by the Austrian technology company Tiscover, in partnership with the national tourism marketing agency VisitScotland and the UK government's PPP vehicle Partnerships UK.

Dogged by industry accusations of anti-competitive practices, the heavily indebted company earlier this year moved to accommodate concerns with a major relaunch. But the changes have not been enough to avert criticisms from the committee, which appears to view the existing website as an obstacle to growth: "With respect to VisitScotland.com, we believe that the current business model is patently flawed and obsolete," the report says.

"We recommend that this is rethought, focusing on information provision and a comprehensive, free listing service and does not attempt to provide accommodation availability and booking services directly to users but refers them on."

"We further recommend that the Scottish government investigates whether additional resources can be provided to move towards the free provision of software for companies to be web-enabled and the extra training and support that will be necessary."

The committee advocates a national, web-based portal that provides all the necessary information and advice on Scotland, containing full listings of quality-assured businesses with links.

"Businesses should then be offered free software and training to enable them to design their own websites, provide online booking etc," the report said.

Alan Keith, the B&B owner from Dumfries and Galloway who led a campaign to bring the tourism website into public ownership, said: "The report of the committee endorses our conclusions about the fundamentally flawed nature of the PPP initiated over eight years ago.

"While we have recently commended eTourism Ltd on their improvements to the website, we have never deviated from our view that the PPP principle was wrong in this context, as it led to a conflict of interest between the commercial need to sell accommodation bookings and the requirement to effectively market Scotland as a destination. This contradiction cannot be resolved under the present regime.

"VisitScotland already runs a considerable number of niche websites and could readily integrate these operations with the visitscotland.com portal as long recommended by the www.reclaimvs.com campaign.

"The obsolete Tiscover booking technology is best abandoned and replaced with linkages to private-sector booking websites. If done with proper industry involvement, this action would provide an opportunity for VisitScotland to regain the confidence of tourism businesses."

Keith added that he would "wait to see what action will now be taken to deal with the problem, and hoped that in the process, the grass roots of the industry are, for once, properly consulted".

Marco Truffelli, chief executive of VisitScotland.com, said: "We acknowledge the report. We will study it with VisitScotland and respond in due course."

Other key recommendations of the report include a call for a more co-ordinated approach to training, saying: "We do not think it is right to continue with a system that provides over 4000 different courses in hospitality and tourism, delivered by over 40 different further, higher and other private-sector institutions and training providers within Scotland."

It recommends the retention of "broadly the same number" of tourism information centres, but with moves to improve ways of providing the visitor with up-to-date information and advice on events, attractions and tourist opportunities from all parts of Scotland.

"We also believe that VisitScotland and others need to be more open to the idea of different locations for TICs, perhaps sharing space with other service providers, for example, post offices, local libraries, cafés, visitor attractions."