The San Diego region greeted 32.3 million visitors in 2012, up from 31 million the prior year, the San Diego Tourism Authority reported, at its annual economic impact and forecast event.

Authority President and CEO Joe Terzi said tourism had an overall regional economic impact of $18.3 billion, including $8 billion in direct spending by visitors, up from $7.5 billion in 2011.

About half of the total visitors stayed overnight in 2012, accounting for 15 million room nights sold and a 70.7 percent occupancy rate.

Steve Hood, senior vice president of Smith Travel Research, said the San Diego region saw total hotel room revenue rise 7.5 percent from the prior year, to $1.97 billion. Continued improvement in the tourism economy helped spur a 3 percent rise in rooms sold, and a 2.9 percent rise in occupancy.

The average daily room rate rose 4.4 percent, to $131.60, and revenue per available room saw a 7.4 percent increase, to $93.01.

Local tourism leaders reiterated calls for the Mayor’s Office to sign a contract activating the Tourism Marketing District, which was renewed in late 2012 for a 39.5-year period and funds much of the budget of the Tourism Authority, through room assessments approved by hoteliers.

City Council cannot activate the district before a formal contract is signed by Mayor Bob Filner. The mayor was scheduled to speak at the tourism event, but did not attend or send representatives to speak on his behalf.

The annual tourism industry gathering drew several hundred people to the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina at Harbor Island.

— Lou Hirsh