Back on the plane, and on social media: The welcome return of International Students.

The pandemic significantly reduced the number of international students starting or continue their studies in western countries, including the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. However, as borders have reopened, the return of students will have welcome flow-on effects for industry sectors beyond education.

International students not only bring diversity to the local student population, but they also provide important labour market support for various industries. Hospitality, retail, and tourism operations, which have been hit hard during the pandemic, rely heavily on part-time student workers. Their return will bring a much-needed boost, especially in the UK where Brexit has already triggered a drop of 40,000 students (and part time workers) from the EU.

According to a report by the UK Council for International Student Affairs, international students contributed £25.8 billion to the UK economy in 2018-2019. Similarly, a report by the Australian government revealed that international education contributed AUD 40 billion to the Australian economy in 2019-2020.

International students often bring friends and family to visit, which helps to drive awareness for many product categories and industries, such as food and beverage, and tourism. A study by the New Zealand government showed that international students spent NZD 5.1 billion on goods and services, including tourism, in 2019. Studies also indicated that presence of international students supported more than 50,000 jobs in New Zealand at that time.

When international students and their families visit western countries, they bring with them their culture, traditions, and social media preferences. Platforms like WeChat and Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book) are widely used in China, while LINE is popular in Japan and KakaoTalk in South Korea. Looking for engagement opportunities beyond a western social media presence will be valuable for brands looking to drive more awareness as students and tourists return this year.

For more education insights, be sure to check out the latest UMS Education Market Whitepaper: Reconnecting with Prospective Students in China.