Korean families who bring their children to Tauranga to study pump about $18 million into the local economy annually.
Post Covid-19 those revenue streams have dwindled due to border closures but the recruitment drive continues as the city's reputation for high-quality education and as a safe haven prevails.
Korean Times, which is the agency that connects families with schools and helps them integrate into the community, estimates there are 250 primary and secondary students, who are part of 150 families, now in Tauranga.
Its figures show international students pay between $12,000 to $26,000 a year for tuition, could spend $20,000 on a car, furniture and appliances and they set aside $6000 a month for rent and living expenses.
Director Hyun Taek Yang said the international education sector was struggling and the organisation wanted to build awareness and further promote Tauranga.
Due to the pandemic, the agency had to re-evaluate its marketing campaign this year as its usual trip to Korea with up to 30 schools at a trade fair was canned.
So on Tuesday
, it organised a virtual campaign at Mount Maunganui.
''The special event was planned for our online marketing, showing our co-operation and bond between the schools and agency. It will show our warm welcome and friendly environment to our prospective families in Korea.''
About 30 families would be returning to Korea soon for summer but others were planning to extend their stay.
Meanwhile, Taek Yang said each school ''is planning what they can do during this hard time including Christmas and the summer holiday period''.
Education Tauranga chairman and Pillans Point principal Matt Simeon said four students had left the school and gone home but 16 remained and it had students who were waiting to come in when the border reopened.
Simeon said it viewed the contribution by the international students in two ways.
''Obviously, there is a financial benefit to the school, which allows us to do some wonderful extra stuff for our Kiwi kids. The other is the cultural awareness and kind of that global world ... so it doesn't matter what I look like or where I come from and the lovely thing we see is the friendships they make.
''It's beautiful to see that even though there is sadness and tears when they go home.''
The tuition fees enabled schools to invest in things which weren't always covered by government funding.
''It allows you to budget for things you wouldn't usually budget for. So things like your facilities and playgrounds, it's all the add-ons and the nice things but a lot of the money also goes into extra staffing.''
Tauranga Intermediate School principal Cameron Mitchell said it was an opportunity to provide international students with the resources to explore and develop their potential and English language skills.
It was also a huge financial boost for the school but not the be-all and end-all.
Tahatai Coast School international manager Rowan Barton said students came for quality education but it also empowered Kiwi kids to make relationships and experience cultures they may not otherwise experience.
In 2018 and 2019 the school took part in a reciprocal exchange programme and about 10 Tahatai Coast School pupils went to Korea.
''So some Korean children came over and stayed in the Kiwi house and then our Kiwi children went to Korea and stayed in a Korean apartment and experienced Korean life. But, you know, having international students at our school every day allows all of our kids to experience a different culture.''
Tauranga Boys' High School international director Annette Roff said it had 15 to 17 Korean students.
''They bring a lot of value to us as a school. The boys can assimilate into our school community and it grows a cultural understanding which is really important.''
Meanwhile, Education Tauranga/Priority One International Education Regional Relationship manager Melissa Gillingham said Tauranga was a popular destination not only due to the quality education but it was also viewed as beautiful and a safe haven.