Arrivals/Departures: Laughing all the way to see Branko

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The Independent Travel

How many famous Belgians can you name? Fans of Derby County football club will probably add the name of star striker Branko Strupar to Jean-Claude Van Damme and Hercule Poirot. Now, with the football season kicking off on 18 August, the centre forward is set to do his bit towards Britain's tourist industry.

What's hot

How many famous Belgians can you name? Fans of Derby County football club will probably add the name of star striker Branko Strupar to Jean-Claude Van Damme and Hercule Poirot. Now, with the football season kicking off on 18 August, the centre forward is set to do his bit towards Britain's tourist industry.

Three years ago Derby County was the first Premier League club to offer weekend breaks based around football matches. "I thought it was absurd that people came from all over the country for the match and then disappeared at the final whistle," says Steve Parker, the founder of Derby Rams Football Weekends (tel: 0115 960 2345; www.ramsfootballweekends.co.uk).

The weekends have proved particularly popular in Belgium. "We got lucky with Branko," admits Parker. "Little did we know it, but he is a national hero in Belgium." Now it is hoped that fans from Norway to Gibraltar will stay on for some sightseeing in Derby.

So why doesn't Parker expand the idea into other football clubs? "Firstly, I am loyal to the Rams and, secondly, it is not as easy as it sounds." It costs £56.50 for a pre-match stadium tour, a ticket to the match and one night's b&b at a Holiday Inn.

Meanwhile, foreign football fans will be exhorted to "Visit Britain" whenever they tune into Premiership matches broadcast abroad. Whenever a match is screened overseas the pitch-side advertising hoardings will carry adverts from the British Tourist Authority.

What's not

You've booked the flights and reserved a hotel room. But have you remembered to arrange your holiday romance in advance? If you travel to Cyprus you can now log on to the Holiday Romance noticeboard at YourCyprus.com and post your amatory requirements. The service has attracted the lonely (Keith who just "wants to make friends"), the desperate (Samantha who is looking for Trevor from the Fantasy Party cruise) and the weird (the "highly educated man" looking for a "good-looking one-legged lady"), as well as couples looking for "fun and games" – and hordes of hotel touts.

How to ... get travel medical advice

According to a survey for the Foreign Office's "Know Before You Go" campaign ( www.fco.gov.uk/ knowbeforeyougo), 70 per cent of travellers do not research their destinations prior to departure. Yet the best policy to avoid illness abroad is to be prepared. There are several organisations offering advice and help. British Airways has 34 Travel Clinics nationwide (tel: 020-7233 6661), all of which dispense free health advice as well as appropriate injections. Masta (Medical Advisory Service for Travellers Abroad) operates clinics across the country (tel: 01276 685040) and runs a Traveller's Health Line (tel: 0906 822 4100; calls cost 60p per minute). Tell Masta where you are going and you will receive a free information pack.

The internet is overflowing with advice of varying degrees of accuracy. One reliable website is www.e-med.co.uk which offers free country-specific medical information by email. If you become a member (£20 per year) you can have an email consultation with a doctor should you feel seriously unwell abroad. It also offers travellers' medical packs and prescriptions.

Event of the week: 101st National Hobo Convention

There are tourists, travellers and then the truly peripatetic. Hobos across the US will hop into boxcars and make their way to Britt, Iowa, for the 101st National Hobo Convention (9 to 11 August). The event is hosted by the Hobo Foundation, formed in 1974 by Steamtrain Mary, Feather River John and Hood River Blackie.

Whatever next

In October, at Heathrow's immigration desk, you will see a select band of travellers – 2,000 frequent transatlantic flyers with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic – trial James Bond-style technology. They will be testing Eyeticket Corporation's Jetstream, a passenger processing system which verifies people's identity by their irises.

But will it get rid of passport and check-in queues in literally the blink of an eye? Unlikely, because, as Eyeticket's chairman notes, the airline industry is both large and sluggish. However, the six-month experiment should stimulate some interest from other carriers. "We are very interested in taking it forward, depending on how the trials go," says a spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic.

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