San Diego Business Journal

Lex Lyon, CEO of Enjoy California Enterprises, a local destination management firm, described his company's technology upgrade as an "ongoing, non-ending expense."

Lyon recently paid $2,000 for equipment to get his company online and expects to pay several hundred dollars annually in upgrades. That includes maintenance of Enjoy California's Web site, which can be found through the search engine Yahoo!

"I'm not sure we're going to see additional business," he said. "I'm not sure the 'Net creates additional business. It's just the working habits of Americans have changed."

And for his service industry-based company, his compatibility is the key to his success.

The number of corporate and event planners using technology is at an all-time high, according to a new report.

The 2000 Meetings Market Report surveyed industry executives and found, among other trends, that 73 percent of corporate planners use the Internet for daily business, with 10 percent of those planners using the search engine Yahoo!

The report also showed 85 percent of corporate planners and 78 percent of event planners used E-mail for planning meetings.

At the San Diego World Trade Center, where planning monthly breakfast meetings and an annual awards banquet has produced an event planning division, E-mail has become a popular means of communication, said Ethan van Thillo, the center's marketing director.

Thillo was the point of contact for the organization's Trade Vision 2000 conference held in May at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines.

"A lot of people find it easier to E-mail me and say, 'Hey, RSVP me for this,'" he said.

The study also determined that only 19 percent of event planners used planning software, down from 28 percent in 1997.

Lisa Richards, president of Festivities Catering and Special Events of San Diego, said it would be very difficult for her to keep up on the events of her multi-employee company without their customized software.

The company uses the event based Synergy software from a company in Maryland.

"Every morning I come to work and I run an event list of what's happening and I stay a week ahead," she said. "I know what's changed, what deposits are in, what money is pending, the guest count that stuff."

In discussions with her competitors, she says they're all software driven because of the numerous orders they need to fill.

Festivities has moved a lot of the advertising and business operations online, much to the dismay of Richards.

"It's the only way to do it," she said. "We've got clients working in Europe, and they're working in the middle of the night, and we get all the stuff in the morning.

"So it's really made it much easier, but much less personable. It's really sad."