Record visitors flocked to Birmingham at Christmas for the annual German market.

New figures released today show 5.5 million came to the city during the market's six-week run, a rise of 1.2 million on 2012 when visitor numbers were last calculated, and spent £397 million, up from £201 million.

The city's hotel trade also benefited, enjoying an average occupancy rate of 84 per cent during the Christmas Market programme, up from 79 per cent in 2012.

Councillor Ian Ward, deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, said: "These record-breaking visitor numbers demonstrate the quality and wide appeal of Birmingham's Christmas Markets.

"Our extensive festive programme has drawn visitors from across the UK and Europe, all of whom have enjoyed the city's retail and events offer, as well as the famous Birmingham welcome.

"The positive figures form an excellent base for 2015 which is set to be one of Birmingham's most exciting periods in over a decade."

The city is set to build upon the success of its Christmas Markets as it welcomes the world with a series of international tourism trade delegations visiting the region in the first quarter of 2015.

Together with Warwickshire and the Cotswolds, it will host more than 50 travel buyers from India and Japan at the end of February as part of ExploreGB, a new event developed by national tourism body VisitBritain.

The tour will showcase the region's retail, heritage and family offer with visits to Selfridges and the National Sea Life centre, as well as highlighting its connectivity to London.

The ExploreGB event follows a visit to the region earlier this month from a group of Icelandic journalists to launch the new Birmingham-Reykjavik service by Icelandair.

Paul Kehoe, chief executive of Birmingham Airport, said: "By playing host to important tourism delegations from across the globe in the coming weeks, we are opening up the region to a whole new visitor base, further increasing our international appeal.

"2015 is already shaping up to be another great year for the airport, with record passenger numbers in January adding to the launch of Icelandair's new service between Reykjavik and Birmingham. We look forward to welcoming more visitors to the area this year than ever before."