Like many destination marketing organizations around the world, Visit Portugal recently promised to do tourism better: more responsible, more resilient, more sustainable. That’s all well and good, but what does that promised “better tomorrow” mean on a personal level? What changes has this tumultuous year brought? What’s going to be different as the travel and hospitality world gets back on its feet? I had a lot of questions, so I asked four mavericks for their perspective. Here’s the first interview in the series.
The Hotelier: Pedro Franca Pinto, Craveiral Farmhouse
Craveiral is a quietly luxurious rural hotel in the Alentejo countryside with 38 freestanding houses where everything is 100% Portuguese, farm animals graze on the property, and sustainability is the driving force behind it all. While many hotels chose to close during at least one of Portugal’s two lockdowns (something that was never mandated by the government), Franca Pinto opted to keep Craveiral open, even with all guests completely separated in the houses, because “closing would have been against our principles of community, sustainability and trying to make difference. This project isn’t only about ourselves; it’s the impact we have on our community,” he says.
If you had known what was coming, what would you have done differently?
Nothing, really. I have the luck to have the right product for this moment. I’m in the countryside, with independent houses, a focus on experience and a connection with nature. Sustainability has always been central.
Now people are saying the pandemic is a good pretext to rethink tourism. My vision is not like that. These trends were already here: sustainability, integration into community, a hotel being more than a hotel but also a place of emotion. If you look at the national plan of tourism in 2010, all of these principles were there. If we had all followed those principles, we would have been more resilient. [Visit Portugal CEO Luís Araújo agrees that the ideas were there, as guidelines, ten years ago, but notes that this time is more substantive in terms of legislation and measurement.]
How has this year changed you?
The pandemic allowed us to create a long-term partnership with [Michelin-star chef] Alexandre Silva and to inaugurate a real farm to table restaurant. We had time to improve a lot of things in the service, do maintenance and improvements, and build a greenhouse and an outdoor kitchen. We took advantage of the time to add value to the project. That’s my mind-set when I have an obstacle. I try to always look to the bright side. Not in a lyric way. But by doing something.
What will you do differently in the future?
I will try to keep going on my journey. I will not change my concept or my vision. Now I’m more supported by the reality. This isn’t about marketing. It’s about reality.
This is an excerpt from an interview by Ann Abel, originally published by Forbes.