Three Norwich Holiday Inn hotels and Norwich International Airport are being operated by 100 hospitality students this month as part of the annual Hotel and Airport Takeover event.
The week-long experience, taking place from 9-13 February, has seen students from City College Norwich take on roles across the establishments' operation, from hotel general manager, receptionist, and chef, to maitre d', health club assistant, and airport check-in desk operator. Existing staff have taken a step back to supervise. The usual standards of service are expected to be maintained.
The hotels' new student general managers are aged between 16 and 18, and underwent an extensive interview process with existing managers to prove their suitability for the top job.
During the event, the three GMs have attended a meeting of the Norfolk Hoteliers' Association; and the Holiday Inn Norwich North has hosted a hospitality careers fair by City College Norwich and Inspired Youth.
The same hotel also delivered a 300-guest gala dinner yesterday evening, entirely prepared by catering students, with entertainment provided by travel and tourism students, with fundraising collected for industry charity Springboard and the college's student fund.
Bill Heath, general manager of the Holiday Inn Norwich North, thanked the teams for their support with the initiative, and said: "We are delighted to continue to grow this amazing event. It is more important than ever that we support students and, wherever possible, give them real life experiences of working in our industry and any other business for that matter. Operating the Hotel and Airport Takeover is a learning experience for all of us."
Joe Mulhall, programme manager at City College Norwich, explained how important the event was in the college's employer relations programme, and reiterated its central role within the students' courses. He said: "The Hotel and Airport Takeover empowers our students, teaches them vital employability skills and provides them with an awareness of the commercial priorities within the hospitality and tourism sector."
Angela Brav, chief executive of InterContinental Hotels Group, Europe added: "We're delighted this IHG Academy programme is getting bigger and better. Hotels play an important role in society and this fantastic programme gives people the chance to gain hands on experience in a hotel; helping them kick start a career in what I believe to be the best industry in the world."
Last year's event was the first time the takeover was spread over a full working week.
City College Norwich began giving training courses in hospitality in 1913, after the Technical Institute formally absorbed the Norfolk and Norwich School of Cookery for the first time. Famous alumni include Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens; Morston Hall's Richard Bainbridge and Strattons Hotel's Julia Hetherton.
Photo: City College Norwich students Megan Nickalls (left) and Ripley Gillibrand (right) are seen here working on front desk at Holiday Inn Norwich North in Norwich.