The regions are continuing to miss out on tourist dollars, with more than half of international visitors' spending occuring in major cities.
The figures were revealed at the industry's 2025 growth strategy, outlined at the annual Tourism Summit Aotearoa in Wellington this morning.
The industry releases a progress "scorecard" each national summit. Overall tourism was tracking well, but there were areas earmarked for improvement.
The scorecard - which uses government, Tourism Industry Aotearoa and industry data - found about 65 percent of international tourist spending remained in airport gateway regions, while the regions miss out.
The gateways are Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Otago, where Dunedin International Airport is located.
The industry reported it hadn't managed to spread the arrivals across the seasons, with 34 percent of international tourists still visiting in summer this year.
That had been a consistent feature of visits since 2014.
It reported strong progress had been made to bring in more tourism spending and visitor arrivals.
The TIA estimated the tourism industry was valued at $38 billion, which was made up of $16b international spending and $22b of domestic visitor spending.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said more than 95 percent of visitors found their expectations of New Zealand exceeded or met.
The industry also unveiled an updated growth strategy.
Tourism 2025 was released in 2014 during a period of no growth and the industry decided to focus on economic growth.
Mr Roberts said the focus needed to change and that sustainability was now key to the future of tourism.
The new vision was growing a sustainable tourism industry that benefits New Zealanders, he said.
Mr Roberts gave a peek at the yet-to-be-released TIA State of the Industry 2018, which found surveyed tourism operators and stakeholders said sustainability was at the top of their minds.
Last year, it was infrastructure.
Based on this year's scorecard, Mr Roberts said he gave the industry an A or -A for its hard work, but there was more to be done.
"We need to be aspirational... we know we can do a lot more and do a lot better."
The industry aimed to bring in $41 billion in tourism revenue in 2025.
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment tourism economic development general manager Iain Cossar said the seasonality of the industry needed to be addressed.
The government wanted to make sure visitors had their expectations met, while benefiting New Zealanders, Mr Cossar said.
Conservation was not sufficient and the environment needed to be improved, not just sustained, he said.