Operations

How To Farm Out Around The Planet

Jim Luff
Posted on December 8, 2015

We all like to think we can take care of our clients’ travel needs wherever their final destinations. In offering to handle such arrangements, operators need to realize that while we are all playing the same game, the rules vary among foreign countries. After learning more about the differences, you might decide to only handle domestic ground transportation.

For instance, if you call Vietnam to get a transfer rate from Hanoi International Airport to a local hotel, the average quote will be about $1,429,155 dongs. A dong is the Vietnamese currency equivalent to our dollar. While that might sound like a large amount, it’s worth only U.S. $63. Other countries have laws that require you to buy the chauffeur’s meal at certain times of the day. You also may encounter a charge from your credit card provider for using your card in another country. Foreign farm-outs involve many pitfalls that can cost you big money.

Finding Operators
Finding a reputable service operator is the first step. You might be inclined to search the Internet for providers in a given city and try to find the lowest price. Imagine the reverse scenario of a well-to-do Vietnamese family traveling from Hanoi to Los Angeles seeking the best price for lodging. As a result of their budget conscious planning, they end up at a discount motel chain such as Motel 6. While Tom Bodett might have left the light on for them, they will surely be disappointed.

If you are going to farm-out, be sure to perform due diligence and research the company you choose to represent you. One of the best and most reliable methods of locating a vendor in another country is consulting the National Limousine Association Directory or calling the NLA office, even if you are not a member. The NLA has members in 56 countries. They seek to do business with transportation providers in the U.S. and invest in membership to make such connections. Many of these members attend the International LCT Show in Las Vegas each year. If you plan to farm orders to other countries, you should attend the International Operators mixer at the 2016 Show and collect business cards.

If you don’t want to risk the slippery slope of international farm-outs, contact a global network such as Carey, BostonCoach or EmpireCLS, and ask them to handle the order for you. Even if you are not an affiliate, we are all in the same business together and they are much more poised to handle these jobs. You can provide your client with a quote you are confident with and know that the service will be reliable.

Sources to Connect With International Providers

  • NLA Directory: Considered one of the most coveted benefits of membership, the directory can help you connect with a provider in throughout the U.S. and in 56 other countries.
  • ILCT Show networking events
  • Travel agents specializing in foreign travel
  • A referral from one of your affiliates
  • Global network farm-out
  • Online search engines

Communicating Abroad

Communicating with an operator in another country presents new challenges with differences in time, language, currency, procedures and the abbreviated jargon we commonly use such as A/D (as-directed) or W/R (wait and return).

We all feel more comfortable and confident about a transaction when speaking to a live person. However, the complications and expense of making an international phone call can eat up all your profit before you even get the job.

AT&T charges $2.71 per minute. A 10-minute call will cost $27.10! Not to mention, you might be calling Hanoi at the beginning of your business day in Los Angeles when it is near midnight in Hanoi.

No one may be available to speak to you. Email is probably the best method for communicating since it provides all parties with a written record of communication, and you won’t have to worry about interpreting foreign accents.

If you want to attempt a phone call, a simple guide to international calling can be found in the sidebar. Remember, do not use abbreviations or industry slang so nothing is lost in translation. AW (Authorized Wait) might mean something completely different in Hanoi.

Placing an International Call
It involves a series of numbers including a U.S. “Exit Code,” which is 011. Next, you would dial a country code, such as 84 for Hanoi. Then, you will dial the area code. This can be one to three digits and then the phone number that can be seven to nine digits.

Example: A local hotel number in Hanoi is an 8-digit number: 3826-6919. To call from the U.S. you would dial the number like this: 011(Exit U.S. System) + 84(Country code) + 4(Area code) + 3826 6919(Phone number).
www.howtocallabroad.com uses a simple pull down menu system

Need A Translator?
In the event you call your party and you cannot communicate because of a language barrier, there are many translation interpreters who will do a three-way call with your party and translate in virtually any language. You can become a subscriber for about $30 a month or pay about 85 cents per minute on a one-time basis. You can find these services by doing a web search of “24/7 language interpreters” to find one that fits your need.

Money Matters

While the U.S. dollar is recognized in nearly every country, you must be sure that quotes you receive are expressed as “USD.” If you are quoted $450 EUR, that is about $500 USD. If you attempted to charge your client $475 hoping to make $25 for broking the deal, you would actually lose $25 in the process at face value. If you requested a quote in Cabo San Lucas for an airport transfer, the rate is likely to be about 1800 pesos. That sure looks like a lot of money. However, in USD, the price would equal about $109. If you are quoted in a currency other than USD, you can check foreign exchange rates with your bank or an exchange conversion website such as GoCurrency.com or Usforex.com.

Next, you must pay for the services of the foreign operator by using a credit card.
The credit card companies will charge your card the appropriate amount in USD and pay the vendor in their currency such as peso, yen or dong. Capital One is the only credit card company that charges no fee for foreign transactions. American Express and Discover charge a 1% fee and Visa and MasterCard tack on a 3% foreign-transaction fee to convert the sale into U.S. dollars. On a $400 all-inclusive fare, you would incur a $12 charge for using Visa.

With razor thin margins, you can get into trouble in your final mark-up. If you are quoted $450 euros for a job in Paris, you are really paying $500 USD plus the $12 foreign transaction fee. If the $450 euro price didn’t include a 19.6% VAT (Value Added Tax) assessed for transportation service, expect an additional cost of $88.20 USD to be added. This brings the total amount you will pay to more than $600 USD compared to the $450 EUR rate you were quoted. Don’t forget to add the $27 phone call if you spoke by phone and even more if you used a translation service.

Time & Date
Don’t forget that just because you are up and ready to do business that the rest of the world might not be. If you don’t get an immediate response to your email, don’t get too concerned. When it is 9:15 p.m. in California on Monday, it is 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday in Singapore. Visit www.timeanddate.com to check time before you call. Make sure to confirm with your passenger the date and day of the week their plane will arrive in a foreign country. Just because they leave LAX early Monday morning does not mean it will be Monday when they land in Singapore.

Cultures, Cars & Customs
A few other things you must check on before sending your client to a foreign operator: In some countries, after a certain amount of hours, the chauffeur must take a mandatory meal break, and surprisingly, this fee is added to your bill. Make sure you know exactly what type of vehicle you chartered, as the Lincoln MKT Town Car and Chrysler 300 may not be an option.

In some countries, such as Japan, tipping is frowned upon, so you won’t see the usual 20% gratuity U.S operators routinely assess to clients. An attempt to tip can be considered offensive. This is the same in South Korea. Make sure you do at least minimal research before making arrangements, and share this information with your client as well so they don’t embarrass themselves not knowing the protocol of hired transportation in another country.

Related Topics: affiliate networks, farm-in farm-out, Global operators, How To, international, international business, National Limousine Association, networking

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
Comments ( 2 )
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  • Lily Ward

     | about 2 years ago

    Just following up as I didn't hear back from you, sorry to email you again. I noticed your page http://www.lctmag.com/operations/article/411422/how-to-farm-out-around-the-planet?page=2 links to timeanddate.com. Unfortunately, that site isn't very accessible for the sight impaired. Would you consider adding a link to a more accessible version likewww.thetimenow.com which is WCAG 2.0 compatible? Also, if you ever want to see how accessible a page is, I recommend http://wave.webaim.org. It is really helpful. Thanks, Lily

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