SKYE should be considered Scotland’s Venice and Edinburgh the country’s answer to Barcelona, a best-selling guide book author has said.

Peter Irvine, author of Scotland the Best, insisted there is an “exceptional” case for introducing a tourist tax in Edinburgh.

He said Edinburgh and Skye – which have both experienced an influx of visitors in recent years – boast an “extraordinary” history and landscape which needs protecting.

He told Holyrood’s tourism committee: “I would suggest that Edinburgh should seriously look at it.

“And the revenues should improve not just the visitor experience, but what it’s like to live with an influx of tourists.

“It was often remarked to me that we should now think of Skye as we think of Venice, and we should think of Edinburgh as we think of Barcelona.”

Edinburgh’s leaders want to tax tourists one or two pounds a night in a bid to raise £11 million in extra cash, with Highland Council also interested in the scheme.

Local authorities are calling for beefed-up financial powers which would give them the ability to introduce a “transient visitor levy” – a move which would require new legislation to be introduced at Holyrood.

The UK is currently one of only nine EU countries that does not charge a tourist tax, which is often raised per person per night in hotels, or per room per night. Barcelona recently increased its levy.

Mr Irvine, founding director of Unique Events, which ran Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebration from its inception in 1993 until last year, spoke out after Nicola Sturgeon ordered a consultation into allowing councils to set an extra tax earlier this week.

He said some areas of Scotland, such as in the south-west, would not be able to sustain an extra levy.

But he insisted Edinburgh is the “gateway” to Scotland and would continue to attract tourists from all over the world.

He added: “I think more and more people will come to Edinburgh. Hotels will be more full; the season will be longer. And this should really be considered.

“Edinburgh has to consider itself in an international context – like Venice, like Barcelona, like Rome. Wherever there are increasing numbers of tourists coming in, and in the city centres, in the old towns of city centres in all these cases.”

However William Macleod, the Scottish executive director of UK Hospitality, insisted a tourism tax would be damaging to the industry.

He told MSPs it could cost Scotland around £175 million in lost spending – and potentially £45million in Edinburgh alone.

He warned against allowing all 32 of the country’s local authorities to introduce different rules within their borders.

He said: "Everybody makes a demand on local services but introducing a transient visitor levy, or a tourist tax, is putting a discriminatory tax on anyone who uses commercial accommodation.”

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said industry chiefs had yet to be approached by Edinburgh Council.

He said tourism is one of Scotland’s biggest economic drivers and “barriers” should not be put in the way of its future growth.