Roughead succeeds Philip Riddle and also retains his strategic marketing responsibilites. The appointment comes alongside a restructuring of senior staff in a bid to create annual savings of £335,000.
The tourism body is cutting the number of directors in the organisation from six to four and investing savings in marketing Scotland.
Roughead, a former Diageo marketer, has been director of marketing at the organisation since 2001 and has been acting chief executive since June.
Roughead has said he wants a stronger partnership of working with the tourism industry and a review of key functions to respond to the current challenges in the public sector.
He recently helped develop a £5m campaign targeting people living in the UK and Europe following the ash cloud crisis generated by the Icelandic volcano earlier this year.
He joined VisitScotland from Diageo in May 2001 where he was global sales and marketing director for Guinness World Records.
Roughead says: “VisitScotland has transformed itself over the last decade and I am looking forward to leading the organisation as it continues to change and develop. In the current climate it’s crucial we work together to grow tourism. VisitScotland generated more than £400m for the Scottish economy last year – representing a return of more than £20 for every £1 invested. I want to work closely with the tourism industry to achieve even greater growth in the years to come as I believe that tourism is vital to economic growth and creating new jobs.”