In the final of a series, Lincoln Tan meets students who say it's difficult finding something to spend their money on
International students could be the saviour of Auckland's economy in recessionary times - but some say they don't know where to spend their money.
Business bodies say Auckland firms are not doing enough to woo international students as customers.
A Herald survey of 30 tertiary and private international students found they received allowances of between $120 and $500 weekly - but some said they struggled to find ways to spend their money in "quiet" Auckland.
Mohd Iqbal, 19, from Saudi Arabia, receives US$350 ($500) a week, but says he struggles to find ways to spend it.
"As a Muslim I don't drink or gamble so I don't go to the pubs or the casino, and shops and restaurants here all close very early. So where do I go to spend my money?
"I studied in Singapore before I came to Auckland and I used to shop until late at night and ate at restaurants that remained open 24 hours. Here I only go home and go on the internet."
Another student, Louisa Zhang, from China, says the lack of a night-time shopping and entertainment venue - such as a night market - means students have only the casino to go to in the late hours.
"If you don't feel like eating or drinking, there is really nowhere you can go to at night."
Tourism Auckland chief executive Graeme Osborne says: "They're here and they have the spending money, but I don't think local businesses are doing enough to turn them into customers."
He says 56.7 per cent, or more than 50,000, international students who come to New Zealand choose to study in Auckland - making them one of the largest client bases for local businesses.
"But Auckland businesses haven't really come to grips with that, and export education is still a sector that is grossly undervalued and under-recognised."
Mr Osborne says international students are worth $1.3 billion to Auckland's economy and export education generates $3.8 million of GDP a day.
Their visiting relatives and friends generate a million visitor nights and add a further $130 million in foreign exchange earnings.
Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett says that as well as retail and accommodation, international students also play a vital role in supporting Auckland's public transport and other tourism services.
"There's almost every part of our economy that these people are going to touch and they're going to spend and they are going to contribute."
"They are a wonderful resource, and we should be taking advantage of that."
Study Auckland, a business unit within Tourism Auckland, will organise an event this month that it hopes will connect tourism operators and businesses interested in the international student market with schools and international students.
Where Education Meets Tourism will be the first expo of its kind to bring local businesses and international students together, says Study Auckland manager Debbie Chambers.
"This expo is aimed at not just boosting local businesses but also boosting international students' experience of the whole of Auckland."
- ADDITIONAL REPORTING: KARA SEGEDIN