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Hospitality Association of New Zealand Otago branch president and Speight's Ale House owner Mark Scully said bars and restaurants in the city had a busy weekend serving parents who were in town to see their children settled in.
The impact of the accompanying parents went beyond the businesses - predominantly in North Dunedin - which did well out of the students throughout the year, Mr Scully said.
While many parents came at the start of the year, Mr Scully felt the city could do more to attract them at other times of the year.
''I think that's an opportunity for Dunedin. I think we should be promoting Dunedin events to university parents more.''
Events the city could be promoting to them included rugby games and fashion week.
''They have got kids that they want to see; we need to give them an excuse to come to town.''
Otago Motel Association president Richard Hanning said the influx of parents made getting a bed in the city difficult.
''The majority of motels are booked out unless they get a late cancellation,'' Mr Hanning said.
The retail sector also did well out of visiting parents, with many asking accommodation providers for the best places to buy furniture and other items, he said.
Tourism Dunedin chief executive Hamish Saxton said it did not run any campaigns aimed directly at parents of students, but targeted them as part of its broader efforts.
It did target parents of students two years ago, with ''moderate success'', but limited resources meant this was no longer possible, Mr Saxton said.
There were ''many great reasons'' for parents to return to Dunedin later this year with events such as the Paul Simon concert, he said.