Almost 5000 international students pumped $21.6 million into the Bay of Plenty economy in tuition fees alone last year - an increase of 22 per cent on the previous year.
The International Education Snapshot Report released yesterday showed an extra 891 international students enrolled in schools, tertiary institutions and private training establishments in the wider Bay, taking the total number of students to 4993.
They spent $21.6 million in tuition fees alone, up from $17.7 million in 2014, but information on the wider economic value to the region would not be available until later in the year.
The report showed the region's growth was led by the private training establishment sector, which had the third largest growth of all New Zealand regions, 31 per cent, or 558 students.
Education Tauranga regional manager Anne Young said she had seen a 26 per cent increase in the Tauranga area in the same period.
International students had bolstered the economy with the financial contribution they made but also brought cultural benefits, she said. "They really prepare our [New Zealand-born] students for the international world," Mrs Young said.
The most recent estimate of the financial benefits from the students based at the 39 institutes spread along the coast from Waihi to Whakatane was $40 million, she said.
Mrs Young looked after the 39 education institutions in Tauranga which took international students, about 20 of which were primary schools.
Among primary schools, Korean students were the most common with most schools having between 12 and 16 Korean students, she said.
The most significant growth had been in the private training establishments which saw a large number of students from India and southern Asia.
Mrs Young said all the institutions in the region were working collaboratively to market the region overseas.
They had also been attracting more students by creating opportunities for them to go on to further study in the region and by making sure the right courses were available.
Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic international director Graeme Renner said the institute had about 1350 international students, which was an increase of about 20 per cent on last year.
He said they were part of the core business and brought many benefits to the local economy and community.
"They add vibrancy to the community and help in many ways, from singing in the upcoming musical Evita to helping behind the scenes at events.
"Local students benefit, too, from the extra resources and programmes that can be offered due to the extra number of students. They get the opportunity to gain an understanding and build international networks.
"International students generate over $55 million to the growth of the regional economy but more importantly they contribute to the community in many ways."
Mount Maunganui College principal Russell Gordon said the school had 61 international students, up from about 50 two or three years ago.
He said there was a financial benefit but believed the cultural benefit was more important. He said the experience benefited the international students, who demonstrated great courage in travelling to live in a new country and culture, and they would have an advantage over their peers on their return.
It was also beneficial for local students. "I say to them, I want them to be ambassadors for their country, to share their country's story with our kids and enable them to dream [of one day going there]," Mr Gordon said.
"They bring the rest of the world to our little part of the world. That's something really powerful."