Called to Minneapolis not long ago, Steve Baloff hopped a plane, confident there'd be the normal abundance of vacant rooms. Wrong. A major golf tournament had booked every cot. "If only I'd known,' he lamented. But he didn't lament for long. On the spot, he invented custom travel publishing.

The venture-capital-backed company that resulted, San Francisco-based Worldview Systems, provides a service that describes up-to-the-moment conditions at any destination requested by a subscriber. Its massive database of time-sensitive visitor details covers more than 170 cities and their environs around the world and is continually updated by a staff of more than 100 editors and correspondents. Requests for individualized "guides' are immediately answered electronically via an on-line computer or a fax, or the answers are printed and dispatched in overnight mail.

Executives on the global go can order advice on such essentials of commerce as computer-rental outlets, conference facilities, banking, security, business protocol, and translator services. A side benefit: control of travel-and-entertainment budgets. For example, by requesting that Worldview's list of recommended restaurants be screened by price, a company can issue its expense-account travelers a selection that cites only midprice eateries.

Now the inventor of custom travel guides never leaves home without one. On a recent visit to Tokyo, Baloff noticed there were four ways to get from the airport to downtown. The Worldview report compiled for one Steve Baloff advised that the express train from Tokyo's Narita airport was the best play for a cost-conscious businessperson, being not only the fastest way but also the cheapest.

Worldview TripPlan costs $7 to $15 per report, depending on the number of categories. Call 800-638-7799.