Iran's top tourism official says the number of foreigners visiting the country has jumped dramatically over the 12-month period ending in March, with 35 percent more tourists compared to the same period a year earlier.

Masoud Soltanifar said on state TV Saturday that the thriving industry could help boost Iran's economy out of recession and bring in much-needed hard currency. He said the 4.5 million foreign tourists that came to the Islamic Republic over the period brought in some $6 billion in revenue.

Soltanifar attributed the increase to the 2013 election of President Hassan Rouhani, described as a moderate compared to his predecessor, hard-line Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Soltanifar says each foreign tourist spends about $1,500 in Iran, and that most come from neighboring countries. The number of European tourists increased dramatically, he added.

Rouhani has worked to promote tourism since taking office to try and offset plummeting oil revenues due to sanctions over Tehran's disputed nuclear program.