OTTAWA - Canada is making plans to attract more international students in an overseas promotion effort expected to boost economic benefits that already amount to billions per year.

The number of foreign students in Canada has grown rapidly in recent years, with many of them coming from India and China.

Universities Canada president Paul Davidson says officials from post-secondary institutions and the federal government are now planning to promote Canada to potential international students in other regions with expanding economies and young populations -- like Colombia and parts of Africa.

The economic impacts for Canada of foreign students nearly doubled between 2010 and 2016 -- a year in which overall benefits totalled $15.5 billion.

To put that in perspective, federal numbers show the sector had a greater economic impact in 2016 than Canada's exports of auto parts, aircraft and lumber.

Davidson says international students also bring diversity and new perspectives to Canadian classrooms -- while their fees help ensure institutions here can offer a wider choice of programs.