Gary Shapiro compared the country unfavourably with France, the Netherlands and Israel.
The head of one British firm at the Las Vegas event said the criticism was well-founded.
But the UK's Department for International Trade said it was providing "targeted support".
CES is one of the tech calendar's biggest fixtures and provides companies with a chance to meet and secure orders from retailers, as well as to gain publicity by showing their products to journalists and analysts.
About 177,000 people are expected to take part in this year's show, which runs until Sunday.
There are nearly five times as many French companies attending this year's CES as British ones.
Mr Shapiro said there had been an annual increase in numbers over the past few years thanks to Paris making greater effort to help its entrepreneurs.
"Now we're starting to see other countries take notice," the president of the Consumer Technology Association added.
"We've seen that the Netherlands and others going in there big time [this year].
"Britain's been a little slow to the game honestly. We have a minister from Britain coming but there's not a lot of activity that we've seen at CES.
"I think it's a source of embarrassment.
"When I was in London recently, I raised it with one of the ministers, and they said: 'Yeah, it's amazing. I can get approval to go to [Texas festival] South by Southwest, but because it's Las Vegas, for some reason it's frowned upon.'
"And that's a pretty short-sighted attitude."
CES charges a discounted rate for stands in its Eureka Park start-up zone.
At this year's show, there are French, Ukrainian, Czech, Saudi Arabian, Dutch, Israeli, New Zealand and US stands organised by government-backed agencies to promote local talent.
But a spokeswoman for the UK's Department for International Trade (DIT) said it thought it was more effective for UK attendees to base themselves elsewhere in product-themed areas.
"The UK continues to be a world-leader in the tech and innovation industry, and events like CES can provide UK businesses with vital contacts to build their brand abroad," she said.
"We want to help UK businesses make the most of trade and investment opportunities including in the US, through targeted support and bespoke business matching that better maximises their presence to win vital contracts abroad."
The spokeswoman added that the minister for digital and culture, Matt Hancock, would meet British exhibitors when he stopped in for half a day before travelling on to meet music industry leaders in California.
But at least one UK start-up is dissatisfied.
Smarter Applications is launching a fridge webcam at CES that alerts owners to when food nears its expiry date.
"We've been invited to networking drinks from the Holland embassy and plenty of other European countries that have a presence there and support [their start-ups] by doing networking events," said Isabella Lane, managing director of the firm.
"We don't have anything of that ilk and there is no UK government base over at CES.
"In France they are supported financially to go to those events and we are not."
By contrast, Bluemint Labs - a Grenoble-based start-up - praised the French government for the support it was receiving.
"The government provides the label La French Tech, which helps with branding," said its marketing manager Pavithra Govindarajan.
"This label helps get more exposure and adoption among the big retailers in France.
"The regional governments also play their part.
"For the region Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, the body Minalogic is supporting select start-ups by paying back some part of the travel and accommodation costs. It is also helping set up meetings with major brands, which otherwise would have been very tough."
More than money
Ms Lane said Smarter Applications was spending about £40,000 on CES, and that budget covered a private meeting room but not a show floor stand.
She acknowledged that there were grants available to the UK tech sector but added that they were difficult to qualify for.
"You have to fit very particular requirements, and as a hardware-software smart home start-up we didn't quite meet them," she explained.
But Mr Shapiro stressed he was not calling on the UK to subsidise its young companies' CES appearances.
"Government support is just not funding, I want to make that very clear," he explained.
"It's political leadership. It's showing up.
"It's a matter of [attracting] attention. We're having the prince of the Netherlands show up, for example.
"I don't know why the UK is not responding, because there is a tremendous amount of innovation there.
"I think there's a great opportunity for the UK, which is untapped."
There's no doubt there are British firms represented at CES - even as I checked in for my flight to Las Vegas an enthusiastic group from Southampton University's tech incubator pitched me their wares.
Later today, I'm meeting a young British solo entrepreneur who's flown here with his own funds to promote what sounds like a very clever wireless earpods product.
But what seems lacking this year is much help from the British government for start-ups wanting to make the trip.
In previous years there had at least been a UK Trade & Investment stand.
Looking at the floor plans for the show I can see representatives from Israel, the Czech Republic and every corner of France - but it looks as though the Union Flag will not be flying.
You can guarantee however that British electronics retailers will be at the show in force, on the lookout for the hot products of 2017 - but they may have to look long and hard for anything home-grown.
CES 2017: Announcements to expect from this year's show
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is one of the biggest events in technology -- and it always kicks off the new year with a bang.
Major companies and even newbie startups flock to Las Vegas every January in order to promote their latest gadgets, TVs, cars, and initiatives. Apart from hosting show-floor booths and hotel suites, which attendees and the media can tour, companies hold keynotes and presentations to announce their latest kit.
More than 177,000 people attended CES last year, making CES 2016 a record-breaking year. Who knows if CES 2017 will be as big, but based on a few invitations so far, we do have an inkling about what you can expect to see in the mobile, laptop, tablet, and wearables departments.
Asus: Asus will hold a press conference called "Zennovation" on Jan. 4 at 11:30 am PST. It'll likely unveil new products under the "Zen" brand, which includes products ranging from laptops and tablets to smartphones. If a new teaser video the company published is to be believed, ASUS has two different phones to show off.
BlackBerry: BlackBerry will hold a press conference on Jan. 4 at 11 am PST. It's expected tolaunch the Mercury smartphone, the last phone to be developed by the company. (TCL, the new brand owner, will take over manufacturing, design, and distribution going forward.) Mercury is also known as the DTEK70, according to several leaks.
Dell: Dell will hold a press conference on Jan. 5 at 10 am PST. It will officially unveil a 2-in-1 version of its XPS laptop, which recently leaked on Dell's own website. The company has already said you can buy the new XPS 13 2-in-1 for $1,000 starting on Jan. 5. It's more expensive than the standard $800 XPS 13.
Fossil Group: Several Fossil brands, including Fossil itself, Diesel, Misfit, Michael Kors, Skagen, and Emporio Armani have all confirmed they will unveil new wearables at CES 2017. There will also be an announcement from a brand new to the wearables space. Google further confirmed to The Verge that new Android Wear 2.0 watches will be unveiled at CES this year, and we suspect many of them will come from Fossil brands.
Honor: Honor will hold a press conference on Jan. 4 at 1:30 pm PST to launch "a new Honor phone".
HTC: Despite the rumors, HTC confirmed it won't reveal a second-generation HTC Vive at the show. Instead, the company wants to focus on building out the HTC Vive ecosystem, rather than introducing new hardware to the mix. We expect a few VR content and accessories out of HTC at the event, though.
LG: LG has already begun announcing what it plans to showcase at CES 2017. We've seen it tease a new robot vacuum cleaner, refrigerator, washing machine, air conditioner, 360 camera, wireless wearable speaker for the neck, and more. It'll likely also showcase new OLED TVs. Its press conference is set for Jan. 4 at 8 am PST.
Sony: Sony will hold a press conference on Jan. 4 at 5 pm PST. Sony could unveil a new 4K Xperia smartphone at the show, according to recent leaks. If not, we may see the company unveil its first OLED TVs.
Samsung: Ahead of CES, Samsung has already unveiled a couple of updated models in its Galaxy A series of mid-range handsets. The 5.2-inch A5 and 4.7-inch A3 will cost €429 and €329, respectively. They will be coming to the UK from early February, with pre-orders available from Jan. 20 through Samsung's own online store and selected carrier and retail outlets. There's no word yet on US pricing and availability. We may learn more at Samsung's press conference, which will be held on Jan. 4 at 2 pm PST. Samsung will likely hold its Galaxy S8 announcement for Mobile World Congress later in the year. However, the smartphone giant could be looking to show off new technologies like foldable screens at CES 2017.
ZTE: ZTE will hold a press conference on Jan. 4 at 4 pm PST. It will probably officially announce the ZTE Blade V8 that recently leaked on ZTE's own site.
CES 2017: What to expect and when is it?
The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the world's largest meeting of technology innovators and enthusiasts. Held in Las Vegas, the consumer conference is awash with robots, smart home appliances, phones and TVs.
At the 2017 conference CES will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. In the past half a century it has gained a reputation as the major tech event of the year, witnessing the announcement of entertainment-changing innovations from the first videocassette recorder in 1970, to camcorder and CD player in 1981, to the Xbox in 2001.
An array of companies from around the world will showcase their latest innovations in keynote speeches, presentations and booths around the city in the first week of the year, setting the agenda for 2017's trends in tech. '
When and where is it?
CES 2017 officially runs from January 5 to 8 in Las Vegas, United States. However, tradition dictates that many of the larger tech companies in attendance announce their products at CES Unveiled, a preview of trends and innovations that runs from January 3.
What companies will be attending?
The companies that are most likely to be making announcements at CES this year include:
Technology giants Apple and Google notably don't make an appearance at CES, but prefer to hold their own launch events. And while web companies Amazon and Netflix have attended in the past, we're not expecting a big show from them this year.
What will be announced at CES 2017?
Between them we can expect to see a range of new products and concepts, including laptops, smartphones and tablets, as well as the future of the car and completely connected homes.
One of the most exciting announcements will include Faraday Future's concept car, " a premium electric vehicle that combines extreme technology, industry leading range and holistic design". Meanwhile, Sony is expected to announce its first range of OLED TVs and products will be unveiled by Samsung, Nvidia, Bosch and more.
1. We founded a company. #FaradayFuture
2. We created a concept. #FFZERO1
3. We joined a race. #FormulaE
4. We unveil the future. #CES2017 pic.twitter.com/TVk3gZ2Dey
— Faraday Future (@FaradayFuture) October 19, 2016
There could also be innovative uses for VR, waterproof and 4K smartphones, and endless drones and smart home gadgets. And there will be no shortage of the weird and wonderful such as home security robots, smart watch straps, and pollution and radiation fighting clothing.