Despite Statistics New Zealand releasing regional figures on monthly tourism spending, the government has no record of how many people are visiting the regions and where they are staying.
Solutions are being discussed, but regional tourism organisations say they want less conversation and more action.
Rafting New Zealand operations manager Pianika Boddington said it could turn into a guessing game unless there was solid visitor projections.
"It has been challenging, we've been in business for the last 11 years so having those numbers would be ideal."
Tourism West Coast chief executive Jim Little said the lack of figures was not good enough given that the tourism industry was worth an estimated $38 billion to New Zealand.
"We've got no idea who's staying in private homes, Airbnb or motorhomes around the district."
A recent study of accommodation on the West Coast found about 38 percent was private or hosted, he said.
"But we've got no [definitive] data on it whatsoever."
He attended a presentation last week about improving regional tourism data, but Mr Little said it had been all talk and no action for the past 12 months.
"To me, it just seems as though it's just a lot of talk going on and it's time somebody drove a stake in the ground and actually did something about it and it needs to be funded."
He did not rule out the organisation funding its own research in the future, even though the government should foot the bill, he said.
Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristin Dunne told guests at the Tourism Summit Aotearoa last week that regional tourism data was woeful.
"The only thing I can use with any confidence to help run a billion dollar industry is visitor spend.
"I've got no idea how many people are in our region at any given time, how many might be coming in the future so it's impossible to plan."
Her organisation has resorted to paying for better regional information, money that could be better spent promoting the Bay of Plenty.
The regions are already facing an uphill battle as government figures show nearly two thirds of international tourist dollars do not leave Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Dunedin and Queenstown.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said if that was going to change, regional tourism organisations needed quality information.
"Regions are crying out for that sort of information so they know how to target the visitor."
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's business and economic development manager Dr Antony Kennedy said there was "no quick fix".
"This is a very difficult and complex are to produce information.
"What we need to do is use third party data sources or data we collect to try and estimate volumes and flows."
His team is working on five different projects, which include an idea to use cell phone coverage and credit card data to monitor travelling visitors and use their movements to develop a picture of travel patterns.
He hoped the projects would get the green light - and secure funding - when the budget was announced next year.