Foreigners paid 543,300 tourist visits to Vietnam last month, down 23.4 percent compared to the same period last year, the General Statistics Office said in a quarterly report released Monday.

Vietnam has reported slumping tourist arrival numbers for ten months in a row, and the latest is the highest-ever recorded.

The Southeast Asian country welcomed around two million international tourists in the first quarter of this year, a 13.7 percent decrease from a year earlier.

The number of holidaymakers from Asia, Vietnam’s biggest tourist market, fell 14.1 percent year on year to 1.27 million tourists in the three-month period, according to the report.

The biggest drop, a massive 40.4 percent, was from China. More Japanese and South Korean tourists visited Vietnam in the first quarter but these increases failed to make up for the huge loss the Chinese market caused to the total arrival number from Asia.

An 11.1 percent quarterly drop was also recorded from the EU market, with only 341,800 European tourists spending their vacation in Vietnam in the Jan-Mar period.

Vietnam only received 95,800 Russian tourists in the first quarter, a 27.1 percent plunge from the first quarter of last year.

The country began suffering from falling tourist numbers in June last year, driven by the decrease in the number of tourists from China and Chinese-speaking holidaymakers following the tension over an oil rig China illegally stationed in Vietnamese waters last May.

Beijing then withdrew the drilling platform from the waters in July given fierce protests from Hanoi and the international community, but tourist arrival numbers still failed to escape from the falling trend.

The constantly dropping tourist numbers have rung an alarm bell for the Vietnamese tourist industry, which is apparently losing its appeal to holidaymakers across the globe.

But it comes as no surprise to industry insiders, who have clear knowledge of what has driven international tourists away from the country.

Vietnam fails to provide visitors with a wide variety of tourism products, supply them with an adequate source of supporting information, and apply flexible visa rules, while it is also unable to launch effective marketing campaigns to lure vacationers worldwide.

Tourists are also discouraged either by the polluted environment in Vietnam although the country has many attractions to wow them, or by unprofessional tourist guides, as recently pointed out by the head of a local tour organizer.

In what could be seen as the last straw on the back of its troubling tourism, Vietnam is weighing whether to increase visa fees for foreigners and overseas Vietnamese.

“Raising the fee is not helping the country’s tourism sector but only harms and turns off foreign travelers,” a reader named Steve Dand commented on Tuoi Tre News.

Dand said higher visa fees are not “a good policy change,” adding it would only bring “short term benefit but long term loss to the country’s tourism revenue.”

Tuoi Tre News - April 2, 2015