The pull of Christmas shopping and New Year sales at Birmingham's shops brought in more than one million extra visitors to the city last year.

The number of people visiting the city swelled from 29.1 million in 2005 to 30.4 million, according to recent research collated by Marketing Birmingham. Peak times for visits were during December and January, with expenditure on shopping also highest during these times.

This indicates that retail is a major influence on people coming to the city, Marketing Birmingham claimed.

And they added that accommodation bookings were also up in 2006, meaning more visitors were extending their trips.

Retail is one of the most important sectors in Birmingham, employing around 47,000 people and bringing in more than £2.1 billion into the local economy every year.

Shopping has become one of the biggest draws to the city, with millions spent on retail developments like the new Bullring, the Mailbox, and the famous Selfridges building.

In the 2003 retail rankings Birmingham was placed 13th as the best shopping destination in the UK, but a different survey in 2005 showed the city had moved up to second place.

Nigel Godfrey, business manager at Retail Birmingham, said: "The fact that visitor numbers peaked around key shopping periods is testament to the excellent shopping facilities that we now have in Birmingham.

"With more than 1,000 shops including top designer labels as well as high street brands and more than 100 independent retailers in the city centre alone, the shopping experience in Birmingham is individual and one that people are prepared to travel from far afield to be a part of."

Information about the visitor figures, which have recently been released, was gathered for Marketing Birmingham by research group STEAM.

They got their information from interviewing visitors, as well as surveying traders in the city.

Dave Hodgson, marketing director at Marketing Birmingham, said: "These figures are fantastic news for Birmingham as they show perceptions of the city continue to improve and it is becoming top of the list for more people looking for places to shop, eat, drink, go to the theatre, have a family day out, and so on.

"Our lifestyle campaigns are designed to engage with audiences through the things you can experience in Birmingham and other organisations have developed great calendars of events to really get people inspired and excited about coming to the city."